Shifting to a DR Site at the Click of a Button

by June 10, 2014 0 comments

Fullerton India recently shifted to a cloud based DR solution. We spoke at length to the company’s CIO, Samir Khare, on the challenges faced, benefits gained, and tips for others contemplating a similar shift

Fullerton India Credit Company Limited is a rapidly growing non-banking finance company with nationwide presence of over 340 branches, and a strong team of over 6000 employees. Some of its products and services include working capital loans for funding the growth of SMEs, home mortgage loans to home improvement loans, financing of motorcycles to commercial vehicles, business loans for self-employed, and much more.

With rapidly increasing business and a vast product portfolio, the company requires a robust IT infrastructure to support it…and the man currently at the helm of Fullerton’s IT, Samir Khare is doing just that. He’s identifying and implementing innovative IT solutions to support the organization’s business growth. One such initiative he undertook was a move to cloud based DR–a relatively new trend in IT.

Moving to cloud based DR was not a sudden decision. The company already has had a private cloud deployment for quite some time, so the decision to move DR to the cloud was carefully planned and thought through over a year. Finally, it was decided to move the entire data center DR site on the cloud. Samir and team finalized IBM’s cloud based VSR solution to host their DR site.

“This is one initiative we took up and is reaching its completion now. What we’ve done is that all our core applications and some of our support applications have been moved to the IBM cloud, within a minute kind of backup happening.”, said Samir.
The RTO/RPO time currently falls within the industry standards, but Samir is trying to improve it even further.

Samir-Khare

Samir Khare
CIO,Fullerton India

How DR was done Earlier
“We had a lot of DR steps, but not a complete one for the data center.”, said Samir. They would backup individual servers and nearsight storage was also used. It was the closest DR solution they had, but it wasn’t exactly a data center level DR. So if (God forbid), the entire data center went down, it was obviously not possible to re-create it. The currently solution is a combination of core and DR site, with database level synchronization happening within 5 minutes of a transaction update happening on the production server. The real advantage of the implementation is that switchover can happen immediately. “Simply click a button and the entire services on the cloud side for the DR/BCP kick-off immediately”, Samir added.

Challenges that led to the deployment
Every deployment has its own set of challenges, so this one was no exception, but none of the challenges here were related to physical movement of servers. The implementation was designed such that entire data and application server images were moved over the network, so there was no physical movement of servers involved.

The challenges were more app specific. Samir recounted that they had a legacy application that was on an outdated version of SQL server, and to set that up on a VSR agent had a lot of challenges, because the agent that was installed on the production server and was polling info and syncing it with the DR server was not compatible with the SQL version. “We had to get in touch with partners for both application and DR site and get them to provide all the expertise that they could bring to ensure that the agent complied. It was a big challenge and took quite some time to get fixed.”, he added.

The second challenge faced in the deployment was that the entire DR structure was actually a mix of core and non-core applications. So it was not easy to design. There were certain non-core apps that were dependant on core applications. There were certain sequences that had to be designed. “It may sound simple, but it’s not”, added Samir.

Tips on choosing a DR solution
We couldn’t resist taking tips from Samir from such an exhaustive exercise. The first question to be answered, according to Samir, and which is probably something that everybody may also ask is whether to leapfrog and go for a cloud based solution, or take the safe, traditional approach of setting up an alternate DR site. Given Fullerton’s growth, there was no question of not having a DR site, so that was anyways a given. Samir took the risk and chose to go with the cloud solution. The other key thing to find out when going for such a solution is to check where the physical servers will actually be hosted. They obviously have to be away from the primary data center. The company had to reject a vendor who was providing a data center that was very close to the company’s primary one.

The third is the cost. “You must do a detailed cost benefit analysis—setting up own vs moving to a cloud solution vs going the middle way”, Samir stressed on the importance of this exercise.
Another thing to look at is the experience level of the partner in doing cloud based DR.

How easy would it be to exit to a different vendor?
Given that it’s a cloud based solution, and purely OpEx based, we were curious to know how easy would it be should Fullerton decide to shift to a different vendor in the future. According to Samir, it was one of the key points they had in their checklist when choosing a partner, and have therefore architected the solution in a way that would make it easy to disengage and move to an alternate service provider should the need arise in the future.

Where’s the data being synchronized to?
Another fear that CIOs have that’s related to cloud computing is where the data would reside and in this case also, Fullerton was very clear and asked the vendor to prove to them geographically where their data would reside, and only after they were satisfied that it was within India’s boundaries did they cross that off from their checklist.

What Next?
The other initiative that Samir and his team are working on is BYOD, wherein they’ll have hosted desktops, with thin clients providing app delivery as a service. As part of the project, they’ve already replaced about 2400 aging desktops at various locations spread across the country with thin client solutions. In essence, the backend compute is now residing at the server level, and they get profiles that can be accessed from any of Fullerton’s offices.
They’ll first extend these capabilities to a certain set of users in the coming months. Once this PoC is successful for ‘X’ number of people, they’ll roll it out to a larger group.

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