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London’s authority gets Olympic class disaster recovery systems

Antony Adshead

The Greater London Authority replaced its tape backup system with disaster recovery systems comprising FalconStor storage virtualisation and Nexsan disk-based backup infrastructure in time for the London Olympics. The project is estimated to save £90,000 a year and reduce data restore times from three days to four hours.

The GLA has overall responsibility to make sure London's physical infrastructure functions, including the elected assembly, mayor’s office, Transport for London, fire brigade, police, emergency planning. It has a head office staff of 800 and during the Olympics has many officers and volunteers working remotely monitoring transport and events, so can’t afford an outage during such major events.

The project's background context has been one of server virtualisation in which its server estate has been reduced by two-thirds to cut costs and meet green targets. But the spark for improved disaster recovery planning was the need to avoid costly outages during events such as the mayoral election earlier this year, a growth of data and the Olympics.

Previously, the GLA had tape backup in place. This came close to being tested during a water-main burst in central London earlier this year; the authority was potentially looking at three days to get all data back up again, but a power generator was brought in in time to avoid this.

David Munn, head of GLA information technology, said, "If we kept on using tape and growing our infrastructure, we'd probably be looking at six days to restore our systems. We'd looked at real-time backup back in 2008 and it had been too expensive, but when we came to doing server virtualization, we looked at the FalconStor product and storage virtualisation to create snapshots and it was more affordable."

The new disaster recovery infrastructure comprises FalconStor's Network Storage Server (NSS) storage virtualisation appliance replicating data from its City Hall site where it resides on EMC, HP and Nexsan arrays to a new 110 TB capacity Nexsan E60 array at a data centre shared with Transport for London in Woking, Surrey. FalconStor's RecoverTrac tool orchestrates failover and sequenced restoration of GLA’s systems in case of disaster.

Munn's team has quantified the benefits in two ways. On the one hand, not doing tape backup and the staff time saved will repay the investment in four years. On the other hand, just avoiding one day's authority officer inactivity due to downtime and tape restoration would save the cost of the FalconStor/Nexsan solution in full.

 


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