A different approach to storage
BPL Mobile is one of India's premier mobile phone service providers with a
subscriber base of over 1.4 million, spread across 209 cities. A well-planned
IT infrastructure that includes a unique network design provides the support
required to carry on its business of communication.
Being a part of a customer-oriented business industry, the company had to constantly
innovate and offer value-added services to its customer to have an edge over
the competition. And this was only possible by staying updated and innovating
on existing and new technologies.
Consolidate and network
The company has four distributed data centers at Mumbai, Pune, Coimbatore, and
Cochin. Cisco routers are used for interconnecting these locations and the Head
Office in Bangalore over point-to-point leased circuits from BSNL. The WAN extends
to the branches and franchisees in all circles in which the company operates.
The company realized that it needed to consolidate the data center operations
into a common data center, and deploy networked storage.
Prakash Paranjape, Chief Information Officer, BPL Mobile Cellular Ltd. explained,
"It was imperative to consolidate the diverse attached storage/internal
storage to a common centralized storage for better manageability and improved
He further explained that the need-based allocation of storage resources to
various applications was imperative to ensure the appropriate storage for various
applications. Due to these needs the company decided to install an integrated
NAS and SAN environment.
The right approach
To begin with the task of deploying an efficient storage infrastructure, Paranjape
said that he had to evaluate the existing setup in detail, and look at the needs
and future expectations before creating a new design.
The company first reviewed the existing storage capacities of various applications,
evaluated the business value of the data, and identified the applications and
data that should have storage provisioned from the networked storage. The next
stage was to identify the business applications that needed to be consolidated
for the new architecture.
Other aspects like computing the total usable capacity for the networked storage,
and grading the total storage requirements into online, nearline, and offline
storage were taken into consideration.
Currently, the company predominantly uses HP RISC servers running HP-UX for
the Mumbai operations. Mumbai uses a VA7400 storage array from HP and a Brocade
"Currently we have about 1.5 TB storage provisioned from this array for
all core applications. Apart from this we have DAS systems and internal storage
for other applications," said Paranjape.
The other locations (Pune, Coimbatore and Cochin) use Alpha Servers and MA8000
storage arrays provided by HP/Compaq. Critical servers running core applications
are connected to the SAN over Brocade SAN Fabric. Storage for other servers
is provisioned from DAS and internal storage.
The new mix
According to Paranjape, storage for mission critical business applications will
be provisioned from SAN and Fiber-based drives. The less critical applications
that need to be available online on ATA drives and the data shared across applications
will be provisioned from NAS.
This distribution when deployed, will ensure cost effectiveness. SAN storagewhich
has a relatively higher cost per TBwill be used for storing business-critical,
high business value and high-performance demanding data.
Paranjape said, "It is a differentiated approach to storage, where rather
than providing same grade of storage solution for all types of storage requirement,
we have allocated different storage solutions depending on their critical relevance
to the business."
After the needs and the approach to the new storage architecture were defined,
the company evaluated storage solutions from various vendors on the following
- Management features
- Performance monitoring and tuning features
- Ease of configuration and tuning of storage
- Online upgrades and the ability to carry out non-disruptive upgrades
- DR features
- Vendor skills for DR and storage management
- Open standards and future roadmap
The following hardware and software components would make up the storage network
- SAN-based storage for core applications
- NAS-based storage for data that can be shared by multiple downstream applications
- Centralized backup and retrieval systems
- Software tools for storage management
The storage solution is expected to be deployed soon.
The new architecture is expected to offer benefits like improved operational
efficiencies in terms of enhancement in performance throughput, higher availability,
and better manageability.
The cost of ownership will be lowered since the cost to manage distributed environments
will be lowered. The service levels will be improved and assured, and the storage
resources will be utilized optimally.
Mumbai has been using the existing storage solution for the past two years.
And the other locations have been using MA8000 based SAN for the past three
years. "We are now in the process of moving over to the consolidated storage,"