SAN solution enables storage consolidation at CIBIL

Credit Information Bureau (India) Ltd (CIBIL) used a SAN solution-backed storage consolidation initiative to deal with spiraling data growth. The SAN also helps CIBIL reduce its storage management costs.

A couple of years ago, Credit Information Bureau (India) Ltd. (CIBIL) was faced with a big challenge -- increasing amounts of data from different banking institutions. This made it difficult for CIBIL to manage a large number of storage systems, which led to the decision to implement a Hewlett-Packard Co. 8100 enterprise virtual array (EVA) storage area network (SAN).

Incorporated in 2000, CIBIL provides comprehensive credit information for credit-granting institutions by collecting, collating and disseminating data pertaining to both commercial and consumer borrowers. Banks, financial institutions, nonbanking financial companies, housing finance companies and credit card companies use CIBIL's services.

The business need

Initially, CIBIL used discreet storage systems connected to servers. Gradually, the maintenance associated with a number of boxes became an expensive affair, and CIBIL realized the need for its storage infrastructure to be consolidated on a single high-end SAN.

According to Sudesh Puthran, chief information officer of CIBIL, consolidation became critical because the organization's business is driven by information. "Initially, we used to get nearly 600 GB of data per month. As more banks adopted CIBIL's services, the data grew exponentially. In addition, banks started several activities with CIBIL, such as pulling credit reports and conducting transactions. Currently, the concentrated data is around 5 TB on a monthly basis. Hence, it became very crucial to have a proper storage device in place."

"Response time was the most critical aspect for us. The two evaluated solutions were benchmarked in terms of I/O speed, redundant I/O channels, and reliability."
Sudesh Puthran

CIBIL had well-identified business requirements in place: performance, reliability and scale. "Response time was the most critical aspect for us. During the evaluation process, we benchmarked our applications on products from two vendors. We recorded the time taken by both solutions to fetch data from the disk and for retrieval. It was benchmarked in terms of I/O speed, redundant I/O channels, and reliability," Puthran says.

Keeping these factors in mind, CIBIL selected and implemented the HP SAN solution. "We went with HP, as we were already on HP systems. Hence, it was much easier for us to integrate the SAN into our infrastructure," Puthran says.

CIBIL's SAN implementation started in June 2008 and went live in September 2008. The implementation process included evaluation, identification and migration of data to the new storage architecture. CIBIL deployed HP's EVA 8100, a Fibre Channel-based SAN solution. CIBIL made an investment of around Rs 2.5 crore in the SAN.

CIBIL had multiple business applications, each with its own storage array. It became a challenge for the IT team to consolidate data from these discreet applications into a single storage architecture. Taking these aspects into consideration, CIBIL's IT team defined a project plan and implemented a proof of concept. "We also tested the applications at HP Labs before the migration. Data migration was performed using HP's Business Copy solution. No external audit was conducted, but we involved HP's team in the project," Puthran adds.

CIBIL has deployed two SAN units -- one at its primary location (Nariman Point in Mumbai) and another SAN in Chennai. "Our data gets updated every 30 seconds, so there are huge data transfers. Chennai's SAN is identical to the SAN based at our primary location. These two sites talk to each other, which helps in a scenario where one site goes down," Puthran says.

Business benefits

CIBIL used several storage devices before the implementation of the SAN. For every such storage array, the company had to utilize more resources. According to Puthran, the manpower cost to manage CIBIL's storage infrastructure was reduced by 50% after consolidation. Pre-consolidation, mapping each device used to be expensive and time consuming. With the SAN in place, just a single device has to be managed.

Puthran says the implementation has been well accepted by the business stakeholders, since his team has been able to show return on investment. The IT team used to keep business stakeholders updated on the migration process. Results were shown by comparing the response times, which became much better than the earlier storage scenario.

Future roadmap

Since CIBIL's data volumes are on the rise with each passing day, Puthran says he anticipates an increase in the organization's need for storage. "We will invest in storage probably next year. Once again, this investment will again be in terms of the latest technology, and could be from HP," he explains. "But we will evaluate technologies from other vendors as well. This investment will be driven purely by the data growth and addition of new products within our business. We also plan to have a separate storage box for redundancy, in case our existing storage goes down."

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