Server Update 2006
Tales from the data centre
Whether it is server management, seamless scale-ups or DR,
there is always the need for role models to look up to. Here we present three
organisations which share their server implementation success stories
it comes to server-front victories, this times server update decided to
look at the biggest of them all. With this objective in mind we narrowed down
the field to three organisations.
Hindalco, the metal segment leader, comes first on the list. The organisations
rapid growth meant that the ability to scale up as fast as possible on the server
front is the biggest challenge. The route taken by Hindalco to achieve this
is a case study worth looking at.
On the other hand, Ashok Leyland faced the server consolidation challenge. This
is a story of how the organisation improved itself in terms of availability
as well as productivity on the process and end-user fronts.
Indian Oil comes next with its two-tier DR implementation.
Theirs is a story of how to use a categorised approach to DR.
The scalability factor
When it comes to catering to the IT requirements of an expanding
organisation, better, faster and more scalable servers are a must. Rishiraj
Verma reports on the server implementation at Hindalco
When an organisation is the size of the metal manufacturing
major Hindalco, technology is crucial. This, according to Sanjeev Goel, the
companys Senior Vice-president for IT, is the major reason for the implementation
of the newer servers.
If were talking about the quantity of performance,
we currently have around 2,500 users and we are planning to move up to 10,000
by 2010, reveals Goel. He explains that the number of business applications
needed to continue operations were constantly on the rise.
The scalability hurdle
Goel states that application integration became essential
as it was getting increasingly difficult to manage and deploy applications due
to the organisations size. Achieving scalability was one of the
biggest challenges that we faced. Thus arose the need for scalable servers.
The company put together a robust disaster recovery management plan that called
for the use of high-end servers.
The best option
We wanted to look at servers that would be easily scalable, is Goels
reply when asked about what kind of solutions the organisation was looking at.
IBMs Power 5 series servers seemed the best option for Goel and his team
at Hindalco. This technology helped us get into rack mode. He explains
by saying that more server modules can be added as per need. These servers can
scale vertically, which saves space as well. Hindalco has chosen p570 DB servers
with Oracle 9i configured at the data centre, and a DS 8100 storage array with
a capacity of 4.5 TB. The OS is IBM AIX 5.3.
Goel says that IBM was chosen since the value for money they provided
with the Power 5 architecture was greater than that offered by the competition.
He says that IBM has a clear roadmap starting with its P3 range of server processors,
moving on to P4, now P5, and the P6 which is expected to come up in the near
He says that a DS 8100 has been installed at the secondary site to ensure fast
recovery in a disaster situation. The servers have features to make sure that
problems at the chip or memory level can be handled by the servers itself. These
multi-application servers take care of our increasing application deployment
According to Goel, the project was phased, and it was made sure that every phase
was given its due importance. The project started in September 2005 with
a branch integration project. After evaluation and synchronal DR, the servers
and SAN were in place by October.
This was the deployments more important phase when major infrastructure
placements and data movement took place. Between October 2005 and February
2006 we have been able to add 32 new sites, he says as he informs that
the entire project was completed within five months.
Availability has gone up, is the first response from Goel as he
lists the benefits Hindalco has been able to achieve because of the implementation.
He says that the implementation has resulted in zero downtime and no data loss
whatsoever. Plus it has gained access to easily scalable compute power.
Pre-implementation, flash copies of data had to be made. We can now take
multiple images for the clone and test environment. Goel also states that
for an international organisation like theirs, online visibility is very important
and this implementation has increased it.
When asked about the business benefits, Goel says that the company is currently
in the closing stages of project stabilisation. According to him, this is the
reason that the projects savings havent been quantified yet. The
financial benefits should be out in three to six months.
On the horizon
Goel says that for now the architecture has been finalised and that the organisation
will stick to it unless there is need for upgradation. This was the reason
the rack model was chosen. More modules can simply be added without the need
to actually upgrade the servers themselves.
As far as the future is concerned, he says that the company
is planning to touch the five billion dollar turnover mark, but that this should
not call for a technology upgrade very soon.
Consolidating for productivity
Ashok Leyland wanted to enhance productivity and improve
the dissemination of IT and business process knowledge among employees. Server
migration and consolidation helped it achieve its goals. Dominic K reports.
As part of an enterprise-wide initiative, Ashok Leyland went
through internal process restructuring in the late 90s. This restructuring took
place in areas such as supply chain, forecasting and outbound logistics. N Mohanakrishnan,
Special Director, Information Management Services, Ashok Leyland felt that the
only way to get the best out of this huge restructuring exercise was to migrate
all of the companys processes to a common IT platform.
We were clear in our objectives to have the best-in-class information
technology infrastructure and services for our growing businesses, explains
Network failure = no ERP updates
Prior to centralisation, Ashok Leyland had a rudimentary
distributed ERP system equipped with a periodic data consolidation facility.
The main problem was that the ERP application did not have a provision
for manual updates in case of network failure. This clearly meant that
activity on hand would have to be deferred until links were restored
Prior to setting up of the centralised data centre at Ennore
in Chennai, Ashok Leyland had a rudimentary ERP with systems operating from
individual locations and a data consolidation facility on a periodic basis.
There were several issues that needed to be sorted out because of this arrangement.
The main problem was that the ERP application did not have a provision for manual
updates in case of network failure. This clearly meant that the business activity
on hand would have to be deferred until links were restored.
The integrated route
All of Ashok Leylands business processes now run on a single integrated
ERP solution. This solution was developed in-house between the years 2000 and
2003 along with the help of HTMT.
The WAN has 110 points of presence across the country and all these points access
the ERP system hosted at the data centre in Ennore for daily operations. The
entire infrastructure including the WAN is redundant to ensure that there is
no single point of failure facility at any point of time.
The company uses Microsoft products such as MS Exchange, MS Office, Sharepoint
portal server and enterprise project management solutions. A centralised help
desk has also been set up at Chennai to support 75 locations that support desktop
management for 3,000 desktops and laptops.
Hooking it all together
All major locations of the company such as manufacturing centres, and corporate
and marketing offices are connected by a 2 Mbps leased line with redundant ISDN
connectivity from more than one telecom service provider.
Other points of presence are connected using 64 to 256 Kbps leased lines depending
upon the level of activity and load. Alternate connectivity is provided through
ISDN dial-up with appropriate bandwidth and the smaller locations use Very Small
Aperture Terminals (VSAT) connectivity.
The new ERP solution, developed in-house, has been designed such that all the
dealer points and the service outlets meeting customer needs will be able to
access it. On completion of the total initiative, Ashok Leylands WAN and
dealer chain will encompass 400 points of presence.
Consequently, the IT platforms continuity for carrying out business processes
became critical. Steps were taken by the company to commission a business continuity
data centre in one of the major plants at Hosur. This will be operational in
the course of next couple of months.
Once the upgradation at Chennai and the Hosur site are commissioned, the company
will migrate its solutions to high-end HP storage platforms.
In terms of security, the company has designed and deployed
an infrastructure which has virus protection, firewall and intrusion detection.
All of them are running on various HP servers. The entire Web-based services
of the company are Oracle-based solutions and run on Compaq Alpha hardware.
The company has put in place information security policies and procedures. It
is also certified for BS 7799 by Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification,
a division of Department of Information Technology, for compliance with BS 7799
In addition to this a number of security tools and intrusion detection and prevention
solutions protect the companys data. Continuous monitoring and evaluation
of adequacy of the information security is made and necessary augmentation/modification
to security infrastructure/policies are put in place from time to time.
The impact of IT on business and vendor partnership
in this endeavour has been
tremendous. The cycle time has come down drastically, and process productivity
has gone up by about 30 percent. Manufacturing planning is also conducted
Besides covering the entire organisation on a common IT platform,
the company is working on two major initiatives. One is to cover dealers and
customers and the other one to manage the supply chain.
These are enabled through customer-and dealer-related processes
and supply chain processes, which are migrating to concurrent engineering in
phases. The solutions were developed in-house.
Other initiatives include deployment of hardware for enabling the companys
messaging, office automation and enterprise project management, and portal services
besides virtual campus and Six Sigma.
These are presently deployed on Intel Xeon-based HP servers and are in the process
of being upgraded and migrated to blade servers. Server Management supports
more than hundred servers of HP Integrity and HP Unix.
HP has provided the end-to-end IT infrastructure service and management that
include 24x7 support services. HP has also provided multi-vendor support with
project management to 70-plus locations of Ashok Leyland bound by Service Level
Benefits and ROI
The deployment has enhanced process productivity with higher infrastructure
availability to business. It has also improved end-user productivity.
Elaborates Mohanakrishnan, The impact of IT on business and vendor partnership
in this endeavour has been tremendous. The cycle time has come down drastically,
and process productivity has gone up by about 30 percent. Manufacturing planning
is also conducted automatically now. There is higher infrastructure availability
with hardly any downtime. The greater predictability of spending on IT
and IT assets means that our TCO is better than before, he adds.
The benefits derived with IT as the centre point is being
felt across Ashok Leyland. The knowledge of IT and its impact on processes and
operations has improved across organisational hierarchies. Communications across
the 100-plus locations has become comparatively faster in the changed environment.
Indian Oil's two-tier advantage
Indian Oil needed high-end servers for running its enterprise-wide
applications that were secured against disasters. A two-tier architecture helped
it achieve its goals. Dominic K reports.
In 2002 Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) realised that
deploying solutions on a centralised architecture has advantages and disadvantagestechnical
as well as business. Any failure of the centralised database server would bring
IOCLs business to its knees. This was the point when IOCL decided to provide
sufficient availability of SAP R/3 services to its operators. The solution was
to design and deploy a two-tier disaster recovery (DR) architecture.
As S Ramaswamy, GM, IS, IOCL informs, Data storage and back-ups on servers
form a crucial part of our mission-critical operations that need to be addressed
by an advanced architecture and related support services.
One of the worlds largest
IOCLs SAP R/3 installation is one of the largest in the world. It hosts
over 5,000 simultaneous users from 600 locations. The systems and services operate
on a centralised architecture and rely on a centralised database system. This
helps IOCL users across the country to connect to centralised database servers.
Today, the deployed architectures sole objective is to maintain data integrity,
DR and critical business management. The deployment complements business
continuity (BC) at IOCL with minimal downtime. Data losses are eliminated or
minimised at the very least, says Ramaswamy.
For every eventuality
IOCLs DR plans are well managed. Various disruptions and disasters have
been systematically categorised and documented at IOCL. Disasters are categorised
as local failures, logical data failures and site failures. Local failures include
CPU faults, disc and array failure, failures in LAN and SAN, and software and
utility failures. Logical data failures include system crashes due to software
bugs, data corruption, accidental deletion and application of wrong patches.
Site failures include power and telecom outages, acts of war or terrorist attacks,
and human errors.
Based on disaster criticality, the SAP R/3 services are provided from four different
centres. Under no-disaster conditions, the services operate out of IOCLs
Corporate Data Centre (CDC) for the primary production system. The CDC is located
at the Indian Oil Institute of Petroleum, Gurgaon.
The R/3 production environment constitutes a database server with an R/3 central
instance server and 15 R/3 application servers. The deployment also includes
various enterprise-class storage sub-systems and a tape library over a high-speed
LAN and SAN.
The database server and the R/3 central instance server run on HP Superdome
9000-class machines with 18 HP PA-RISC 8700 series CPUs. 24 GB of the servers
main memory is connected to the HP XP1024 storage sub-system and HP ESL tape
library over the SAN through an HP FC-64 SAN switch. The database server currently
runs on Oracle Database Server Version 126.96.36.199.
Individually, every SAP user is connected to the production system. This is
achieved through any of the 15 SAP R/3 application servers. These are deployed
on 13 HP Series 5405 servers (3 CPUs, 6 GB RAM) and two HP series 7410 servers
(8 CPUs and 24 GB RAM).
The Corporate Communication Centre acts as the primary communication hub under
normal conditions. The centre is also located at Gurgaon, but in a separate
building at a cable distance of 300 metres from CDC. A baseband and radio frequency
(RF) solution is also provided within the same designed architecture for redundancy.
This centre forms the backbone for various e-commerce applications, SAP, FTP
Finally, there is the Metro Disaster Recovery Centre (DR1) to be used as a production
system during a localised disaster at the CDC. It is located within the communication
building at Gurgaon. The DR1 centre has an HP 9000 Superdome server with 12
CPUs and 16 GB RAM. This centre also hosts five HP L-class servers (three CPUs
and 6 GB RAM) running as application servers. It is configured for the primary
production environment. IOCLs development and quality server hosted at
DR1 is on an HP L-class server (three CPUs and 6 GB RAM). Ciscos network
node manager and HP OpenView software manage the communication centre.
Twice the strength
The two-tier recovery architecture aids faster and consistent
recovery. It is also expected to support communication
and SAP R/3 services during natural and man-made disasters.
The DR1 operates from the communication centre within the complex, and lies
about 300 metres from the production data centre.
The Main Disaster Recovery Centre is based at the Sanganer terminal in Jaipur.
It is located about 250 km from the Gurgaon facility, and is known as the Business
Continuity Centre. This centre has the responsibility to maintain BC in case
SAP R/3 services stop. The primary site at Gurgaon, which also hosts the data
centre, became operational in November 2002. The secondary DR site at Jaipur
has been operational from early 2005.
Inside IOCL's network
The network topology is based on hub-and-spoke. This also connects the four
divisional and regional headquarters, refineries and state offices directly
to the communication centre at Gurgaon. Connectivity is established by means
of high-speed PAMA (Pre Assigned Multiple Access) VSAT links and 2 Mbps leased
lines. 402 leased lines make up the overall network.
Data security and communication in the network and between various servers is
managed via Cisco 6509 Layer-3 switches. These support and maintain the data
centre network backbone. A 1000 Mbps network on fibre cables takes care of the
network traffic between the application servers and the database server, while
a 100 Mbps network maintains traffic between the end-users and application servers.
The LAN is connected on a single Cisco 4507 Switch.
A clustering tool called MC Service Guard is deployed to
ensure availability and continuous running of database instances and applications.
The storage between tiers is networked via two HP 2/12 StorageWorks SAN Switches.
The primary and the secondary sites store about 40 TB.
VSATs to the rescue
VSATs form the primary communication medium while ISDN and PSTN lines form the
back-up connectivity. About 326 VSATs help users communicate through the central
primary communication hub. The corporate-wide VSAT network is on INSAT 3B using
the Ku band. The organisation has hired one full transponder for the same.
All divisional offices, terminals, depots and LPG plants are connected to their
respective state offices with 64 Kbps (or n x 64 kbps) leased-line links. These
are also connected to the primary communication hub at Gurgaon using the TDMA
and FTDMA network. The data redundancy on multiple servers based on the two-tier
architecture has enabled Indian Oil to maintain its zero downtime expectations
with better productivity and an always-available system.