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Issue of September 2006 

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Disaster Recovery

DR tales

Newer acronyms like 3DR and CDP crop up every passing day. However, it is of greater relevance to discover what Indian enterprises already have in place on the DR front. Here is a look at two such organisations.

It is quite interesting to note that many an Indian organisation has already deployed advanced multi-tier DR infrastructure. Here we present two such organisations who already have sophisticated DR infrastructure in place to keep their businesses running in the worst of times.

When you are a business processing services player, there is no excuse for the infrastructure going down. That is why First Indian Corporation deployed a two-tier network infrastructure that incorporated DR with provisions for future growth. Today, First Indian Corporation is ready for any disaster.

In the case of Bank of India (BoI) it was the shift from branch-specific automation to an overall bank automation that paved the way for disaster preparedness. The BoI case of business continuity and disaster recovery implementation is an example worth emulating.

Across the oceans with two-tier IP

First Indian Corporation, a leading provider of business processing services to the real estate information and mortgage industry, decided to deploy a two-tier disaster recovery infrastructure. Dominic K reports

First Indian Corporation is a BPO and a subsidiary of The First American Corporation, with facilities in Bangalore and Hyderabad. It provides insurance, property tax, flood certification, and default management services for credit and real estate information clients in the United States. First India’s two-tier network is based on a switching architecture using various Catalyst 6500 series switches in the core and access layers.

The need

The organisation’s Indian operation and transaction centre was initially based in Hyderabad. It later decided to shift to a larger base in Bangalore which would also act as its Indian head office.

When First Indian sought to move its operations to the new facility in Bangalore from Hyderabad, it felt the need for deploying an IT and network infrastructure that incorporated disaster recovery.

Anoop Hegde

Anoop Hegde, Country Manager, First Indian wanted the deployed architecture to include DR aspects with a provision for future needs. Additionally, it wanted to ensure seamless network connectivity across all its inter-state facilities. “Our major concern and objective was business continuity through high link-up time and securing business information and data over international network,” he states.

The objectives

First Indian’s primary objective was to have redundant inter-connectivity. Besides, it wanted to deploy a two-tier architecture for DR. The deployment was commissioned with Cisco as a consultant and Wipro Infotech as the network integrator.

The organisation’s hot-site data backup site is based in Dallas while the enterprise-wide application data centre is based in Santa-Ana, California. All the data from India is remotely backed up in Dallas.

Solutions Deployed At First Indian Corporation
HP Compaq Server Proliant DL 580
HP Compaq Server Proliant DL 380
HP Compaq Server Proliant ML 350
Sun Fire Series Server
Catalyst 6506-E for core switches
Catalyst 6513 and 6509 for access switches
Catalyst 6509 for server farm switches
Catalyst 4506 for DMZ
Internet and WAN Routing
3825 series router
Firewall PIX-535-UR-BUN
Firewall PIX-535-FO-BUN
VPN Concentrator VPN 3030
Access Control Server

The solutions deployed

First Indian wanted the deployed architecture to include DR aspects with a provision for future needs. Additionally, it wanted to ensure seamless network connectivity across all its inter-state facilities

First Indian was working under strict project guidelines. If the new infrastructure was not put in place, it would have jeopardised its productivity and revenues. Moreover, migration from the existing facility to the new one was dependent on the network implementation.

The facilities in India are connected by multiple MPLS circuits. These circuits are on the Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Pacific communication cables routed from United States to the facilities in Bangalore and Hyderabad. The Trans-Oceanic communication cable lines are handled by MCI and AT&T.

The network also supports automatic re-routing and inter-connected operations for the facilities in Bangalore and Hyderabad.

The network’s DR objectives were achieved through the use of redundant network equipment and communication links. The deployment complemented First Indian to achieve its expected link uptime of 99.99 percent for various international transactions and business processes.

Technology used

The switching facilities included Cisco Catalyst 6506-E for core switches. Cisco’s Catalyst 6513 and 6509 were deployed as access switches while Catalyst 4506 forms a Demilitarised Zone. The access layer switches helped First Indian harden its system.

The server farm switches were Cisco Catalyst 6509. Internet and WAN routing was accomplished through Cisco 3825 series routers.

Security was framed and designed with flexibility for future needs and control that could be handled at the access or core layers. The enterprise security aspect is covered using Cisco’s PIX-535-UR-BUN and PIX-535-FO-BUN firewalls with failover.

Remote connectivity was established through VPN Concentrators through the use of Cisco VPN 3030. Network administrators can enforce corporate assigned policies through Cisco Secure Access Control Server.


It took three months to complete the deployment. During that time the IP Contact Centre routed the calls from corporate global centres in the United States and across Asia and India. It is now being routed by the Cisco Unified Intelligent Contact Management. The main management of call centres is in United States while the calls are being handled by customer care representatives in Bangalore on various Cisco 7960 IP-based phones.

Future expansion

First Indian handles 800 terabytes of data and this is expected to expand with the business growth. This has led the company to spread its operational wings to other locations.

First Indian is looking to set up its base in other Indian cities as well. This will also mean further extension of its network architecture.

Automated against disaster

Dominic K writes about Bank of India's DR strategy and set-up

P A Kalyan Sunder

The Bank of India wanted to migrate to a system that would automate all its branches across the country. The bank also needed to introduce a core banking system and centralised data system since the data access in each branch was limited to city level servers.

This was why BoI decided to shift from branch-specific automation to an overall bank automation along with business continuity and disaster recovery implementation, according to P A Kalyan Sunder, GM, IT.

BoI currently has more than 2,000 branches across the country. Out of these 1,000 are considered as strategic branches. To fulfil its deployment objectives BoI chose HP as consultants and network integrators for the project.

Objectives and Challenges

Apart from business continuity and a redundant disaster recovery set-up BoI wanted to upgrade its banking infrastructure. It wanted the deployment to offer better services to its customers.

The challenges included network management of almost all the strategic branches. The other major hurdle faced by BoI was with regards to poor infrastructure set-up and change management among its employees across all levels.

As Sunder puts it, “The poor infrastructure was a major hurdle during the overall deployment along with change management among our employees. We had to face severe power failure at times for eight to 10 hours in some branches. We had to carry on our activities with the help of a UPS powered by a diesel generator.”

The challenges were jointly tackled by the bank and HP. This is reflected from the fact that the deployment project was completed one year before the scheduled date. The deployment’s execution started off in August 2004 and was expected to be completed by June 2007.

By June 2006 deployment in about 750 branches was completed. This was a major milestone since the bank is about to celebrate its centenary on September 7 this year.

Solution and Technologies Deployed

The higher level management decided to tackle change management issues with determination and by ensuring continuous training to its employees. The training on various banking technologies and business aspects was jointly executed by BoI and HP.

The BoI data centre set-up is located in Mumbai and forms the tier-one. The tier-two set-up forms the disaster recovery centre and is based in Bangalore. The DR centre lies in a different seismic zone. The connectivity between them and across various branches is established with dedicated leased lines. These lines are leased out from MTNL, BSNL and Bharti Enterprise.

Branches from across the country terminate at various Network Aggregation Points (NAPs). The NAPs are simultaneously connected to the BoI data centre in Mumbai and DR centre in Bangalore. The inter-connectivity is established based on point-to-point protocol using leased lines.

Data travels through multiple leased lines from the data centre to the disaster recovery centre. The core banking applications run on Finacle from Infosys and the database is set up upon Oracle Financial Service Architecture.

The entire core banking applications run on multiple HP Superdome servers while the storage solutions have been migrated to a HP StorageWorks XP1024 disk array. This is further connected through leased lines to various Cisco switches and routers deployed across the country in various branches forming a hub and spoke topology. This topology uses a central point to co-ordinate activities between the various branches and the data centre.

Apart from project management, HP also holds the responsibility of managing the bank’s infrastructure which includes mainframes, Web and data servers, network devices and desktops. The responsibilities also include upgrading the applications and the software for core banking applications, telephone banking and Internet banking. The deployment and implementation leaves enough room for future increase in customer base and upgradation of deployed systems and network.

The benefits

The IT deployment and transformations in core banking and data warehousing have helped BoI to reduce its Total Cost of Ownership. The deployment has almost achieved its prime objectives of shifting from branch-centric automation to bank automation without compromising on disaster recovery and business continuity processes

The deployment has complemented BoI to update its database through data mirroring and remote auto backups. Management Information System and various critical functions of controlling offices have been computerised.

At present, the operations at about 2,433 branches across the country are computerised out of which 108 branches operate in partially-computerised mode. The bank is a member of the RBI’s VSAT Network and has installed about 39 VSATs linking strategic branches and offices adding redundancy during disaster.

The IT deployment and transformations in core banking and data warehousing have helped BoI to reduce its Total Cost of Ownership. The deployment has almost achieved its prime objectives of shifting from branch-centric automation to bank automation without compromising on disaster recovery and business continuity processes.

Future plans

The core banking application is deployed in 1,000 branches currently. It will deployed at all the branches across the country, eventually.

BoI is also planning to introduce online cheque truncation facility for its customers. Cheque truncation is the use of electronic (scanned) images of a cheque for processing. This should further scale up the IT infrastructure and operations at the bank.

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