About Euler Hermes
With a 34 percent market share, Euler Hermes is the world number one in credit insurance. The company employs 6,000 people in more than 50 countries, helping companies of all sizes to protect against the risk of insolvent clients. Euler Hermes is a member of the Allianz group.
The central production team at Euler Hermes is in charge of defining and managing standards at the group level for data protection and disaster recovery across all enterprise sites.
The majority of corporate servers at Euler Hermes are based in data centres that are protected by a proprietary disk replication technology supplied by the vendor of the disk arrays. However, some business-critical servers are running in a certain number of national sites. These systems—a set of 20 Microsoft Windows servers hosting Oracle and proprietary databases, or publishing applications via Citrix—are virtualised using VMware vSphere 4. They are also backed up daily to a local tape drive. This approach ensures adequate protection for data in the event of an individual loss of data or of a server.
However, recovery from disaster is slow and requires significant effort. It could take between 24 and 48 hours to completely restore a server and the associated backup architecture. The recovery point objective (RPO, the amount of time elapsed between the last backup and the failure) could be as much as 24 hours—the time since the last tape backup—meaning that up to a full day's work might be unrecoverable.
To ensure high availability and to reduce the potential loss of data, Euler Hermes undertook a study to find better ways to protect data.
After running a proof-of-concept exercise with two short-listed solutions, Euler Hermes chose PlateSpin® Protect from Novell, and worked with D.FI to implement the solution.
"For these critical systems located in remote offices, we needed better protection than a daily tape-based backup could provide," said Olivier Berline, System Engineer, Euler Hermes. "One of our key reasons for selecting PlateSpin Protect is its ability to protect both physical and virtual servers. It was also able to give us a good RPO at a competitive price."
PlateSpin Protect creates virtual copies of the protected workloads at specified times, then replicates the changes to a remote copy of these servers. The solution protects both virtual and physical workloads, and dramatically accelerates recovery by removing the need to configure a new physical server and then laboriously restore the systems from backup files.
An intuitive web interface makes it easy for administrators to manage snapshots and replications, and also enables simple testing of server copies.
"It's far easier to test our recovery capabilities with PlateSpin Protect, not least because we no longer need to go back to the tape archives," said Olivier Berline. "Outside of our obligatory annual test, we can also run simulated tests at any time on the machine of our choosing. This is a major plus point of the PlateSpin solution: we can take a snapshot of a live system and test its recovery without any disruption to the business."
Euler Hermes takes a new snapshot of its servers every three hours, bringing the RPO down from its previous maximum of 24 hours. Recovery takes less than 20 minutes, as each cloned server is encapsulated in a virtual machine that already fully installed and ready to boot. By contrast, tape-based backups typically protect just data and configuration files, which often means that the operating system and applications must be manually installed.
By implementing PlateSpin Protect, Euler Hermes has accelerated and simplified the recovery of 20 critical servers. The RPO has come down from as much as 24 hours to a maximum of three, and the RTO is now down to a matter of minutes from a previous estimated 24 to 48 hours for a traditional recovery procedure.
"PlateSpin Protect makes it very much faster to recover systems, which will minimise service interruption in the event of a server failure," said Olivier Berline. "We simply click to select the virtual image we want to restore, instead of having to rebuild entire servers from several tapes. With PlateSpin Protect, we save at least 30 man-days per year in administration and in recovery testing, which represents a significant reduction in costs."
The reliability of disaster-recovery procedures is higher with PlateSpin Protect. Euler Hermes can quickly and easily perform full test recoveries at any time without any impact on production, to ensure the consistency of the data snapshots and replication. In an environment where recovery is reliant on tape, tests take far more time and effort, and the risk of failure is greater.
"With PlateSpin Protect, it's much easier to demonstrate to the business that their systems are protected against failure," said Olivier Berline. "By enabling tests to be re-run, the solution gives us far more confidence around system recovery, and frees up IT staff to focus on other issues."