Published on 16-Aug-2011
"Even though we’re moving from 15 servers to just five, the new POWER7 processors are so much faster than the previous generations that we have plenty of headroom to spare." - Paul Fordy, Technical Architect for the AIX environment, Western Power Distribution
Western Power Distribution
Energy & Utilities
Business Resiliency, High Availability , Infrastructure Simplification, IT/infrastructure, Optimizing IT
IBM Business Partner:
Western Power Distribution (WPD) delivers electricity to 2.6 million customers over a service area of more than 26,000 sq km. The company employs 2,300 staff and maintains a network consisting of 83,000 kms of overhead lines and underground cables, and 90,000 substations. Its role is to ensure the power network of poles and pylons, cables, wires and substations provides electricity to homes and businesses in South Wales and Southwest England around the clock.
Western Power Distribution (WPD)’s existing server and storage landscape was due for a refresh, providing an opportunity to rationalise and simplify the entire infrastructure. The top priority was to ensure that in case of disaster at the company’s main data centre, core systems could be restored within a single working day.
Celerity, an IBM Premier Business Partner, helped WPD consolidate 15 servers onto just five new IBM® Power® 750 machines and migrate 15 TB of data from existing disk arrays onto a pair of IBM XIV® storage systems. The two XIVs are mirrored between the company’s two data centres, enabling rapid failover in case of disaster. Subsequently, following a major corporate acquisition, the server and storage environments were expanded to support more users and larger volumes of data.
Reduced disaster recovery time from two days to a matter of a few hours. Consolidated the AIX server estate by 66 percent, cutting management workload and saving on power, cooling and per-processor software licensing. Supported WPD’s acquisition strategy by scaling to support more than twice as many users and three times as much customer data as originally planned. Enabled zero-downtime maintenance by moving active workloads seamlessly between servers. Simplified storage management with thin provisioning, snapshots and other advanced XIV features.
Western Power Distribution is the electricity distribution network operator for the Midlands, South Wales and the South West. The company delivers electricity to over 7.6 million customers over a service area of 55,300 sq. km. The network consists of 216,000 km of overhead lines and underground cables, with 184,000 substations. The company’s role is to ensure the power network of poles and pylons, cables, wires and substations provides electricity to homes and businesses in the Midlands, South Wales and Southwest England around the clock.
Investment in people and equipment combined with technical excellence and innovation have shaped WPD’s business, making it one of the most efficient service providers of all the UK’s electricity distribution companies.
WPD’s business processes are supported by two main sets of IT systems: a number of Windows and Linux servers running in both physical and VMware environments, and a number of core business applications (mostly Oracle applications) running in an IBM AIX environment on IBM Power Systems servers.
“With our VMware environment, we were able to restore servers quickly during our disaster recovery tests,” comments Al Kellaway, Computer Manager at WPD. “However, for the AIX environment, we were relying on an outsourced disaster recovery solution that could take two or three days to get all our systems back online. We wanted to be able to achieve same-day recovery, so we decided to switch to a new DR solution that we would manage in-house.”
Seizing the opportunity
A first step in improving DR performance would be to simplify the underlying infrastructure, which included around 15 IBM Power Systems servers and a number of IBM disk arrays. Most of these systems were nearly five years old, and WPD was due to start a hardware refresh – so it was an ideal opportunity to rationalise and consolidate.
“We sent out an invitation to tender, and we were impressed by a joint proposal from IBM and Celerity,” says Kellaway. “Celerity is one of our preferred IT suppliers, and they had done a good job on several other smaller projects, so when they proposed a solution that was both simpler and cheaper than the competition, we were confident that they could deliver.”
Moving to POWER7
Celerity helped WPD consolidate its 15 existing machines onto just five new IBM Power 750 servers, each with eight IBM POWER7 processors and 64 GB of memory. Three of the servers are located at the main data centre in Plymouth, and are used to support production and test/development environments for the company’s Oracle-based asset management, billing and metering applications, its Progress-based payroll system, and several other applications. The other two servers, which act as a standby for production failover, are installed at the company’s DR site in Exeter, more than 30 miles away.
“Even though we’re moving from 15 servers to just five, the new POWER7 processors are so much faster than the previous generations that we have plenty of headroom to spare,” explains Paul Fordy, Technical Architect for the AIX environment at WPD. “We’ve got more space in the data centres, and more importantly, we’ve freed up power and cooling resources for other systems. Moreover, because we now have fewer processors in total, our licensing costs for software that is licensed on a per-processor basis should be reduced significantly.”
Remote mirroring with XIV
Celerity also helped WPD to install IBM XIV Storage Systems at both data centres, using IBM Tivoli Storage Manager to migrate 15 TB of data from existing storage systems onto the new platform. Remote mirroring across the company’s existing gigabit network link ensures continuous data replication across both XIV systems, so in the event of a disaster at the main site, the loss of data will be minimal.
Kellaway comments: “The remote mirroring capabilities of the XIV Storage Systems are a critical component of our new DR solution, and should enable us to restore all our systems in just a few hours – a huge improvement on the two or three days of downtime we might have expected with our previous solution. It is also an advantage that we can use our existing network link, instead of having to invest in any additional communications technology.”
Simpler storage management
Fordy adds: “The XIV also has a number of other features that will help us reduce storage management workload. For example, thin provisioning makes it much simpler to handle storage growth. Also, the user interface is extremely simple and intuitive, so it’s a lot easier to create new storage volumes without worrying about RAID settings and other technical issues. The Power 750 servers help too: for example, the new AIX Virtual I/O Server significantly reduces the complexity of connecting servers to storage volumes.”
WPD plans to continue performing two full DR tests each year, and aims at continual improvement in recovery times.
“We want to keep pushing the boundaries,” says Kellaway. “A couple of years ago we reduced our recovery time from weeks to days, and now we’ve improved from days to hours. For the future, we’re planning to take a more business process-oriented approach to DR – so instead of recovering individual islands of servers, we’ll prioritise the recovery of all the systems that are involved in our core processes.
A platform for growth
Soon after the initial implementation of the POWER7 and XIV environment, WPD faced a new challenge: its parent company, PPL WEM Holdings plc, acquired Central Networks Ltd, Central Networks East plc and their affiliated companies from the E.ON group. As a result of this acquisition, WPD’s IT landscape needed to scale rapidly to support a considerably increased workload.
“The acquisition meant that instead of 2,000 users, we suddenly had more than 4,000; and instead of 2.4 million customers, we had 7.6 million,” comments Al Kellaway. “Instead of maintaining the existing Central Networks IT systems, we decided to move the new users and data into our own landscape, expanding our POWER7 and XIV systems to meet the additional demand. By standardising on these two technologies, we have been able to swiftly prepare the environment for the additional requirements, enabling the data migration project to get off to a fast start.”
He concludes: “IBM and Celerity have been excellent partners in the journey so far, and we hope to continue to work with them to continue to expand and develop our business in the future.”
Products and services used
© Copyright IBM Corporation 2011. IBM United Kingdom Limited, PO Box 41, North Harbour, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO6 3AU. Produced in the United Kingdom, August 2011. All Rights Reserved. IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, AIX, Power, Tivoli and XIV are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. A current list of other IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at http://www.ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. Other company, product or service names may be trademarks, or service marks of others. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries, or both. Microsoft, Windows, Windows NT and the Windows logo are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. IBM and Celerity are separate companies and each is responsible for its own products. Neither IBM nor Celerity makes any warranties, express or implied, concerning the other’s products. References in this publication to IBM products, programs or services do not imply that IBM intends to make these available in all countries in which IBM operates. Any reference to an IBM product, program or service is not intended to imply that only IBM’s product, program or service may be used. Any functionally equivalent product, program or service may be used instead. All customer examples cited represent how some customers have used IBM products and the results they may have achieved. Actual environmental costs and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. IBM hardware products are manufactured from new parts, or new and used parts. In some cases, the hardware product may not be new and may have been previously installed. Regardless, IBM warranty terms apply. This publication is for general guidance only. Photographs may show design models.