Storage area network (SAN) boost for Eveready's FMCG drive

We take a look at how Eveready Industries' FMCG expansion has been driven by addition of a storage area network (SAN) to its existing SAN architecture.

With its strong presence in the Indian dry cell industry, Eveready Industries India Limited's focus has been on expansion of its portfolio into different business areas. Due to its focus on transforming into a strong FMCG player, Eveready has expanded its portfolio to include flashlights, compact fluorescent lamps and packet tea. It has also recently added mosquito repellant as part of its varied product offerings. As part of this rapid business growth, the company's demand for IT and storage also witnessed a sharp increase.

The interesting angle in Eveready's storage story has been the addition of a new storage area network (SAN) to supplement its existing SAN. As Arup Choudhury, the chief information officer of Eveready Industries Ltd explains, the company implemented its Oracle enterprise resource planning (ERP) system in 2005. "Since then, more processes have been automated and data growth has been on the rise. If processes get automated, transactions become dependent on the system, which increases our database size," says Choudhury.

Along with this, Eveready also felt the need to have a secured data backup, which was not possible with its existing SAN. Before its new SAN implementation, the organization was highly dependent on tape-based backup. "In our business, maximum server loads happen during mid-month and month end. Degradation of system performance was observed during these peak periods. The backup process was also eating up resources. Hence there was a need for storage architecture to help us cope with the increase in data and provide secured backup," says Choudhury.

Eveready's IT team did not face a challenge of convincing business stakeholders, since the need for an upgrade was imminent due to the constant addition of new businesses. Hence the company's decision-makers felt the need for an optimal storage setup.

At that time, Eveready had an EMC SAN solution which was in use for five years. Choudhary claims that he faced no issues with the EMC solution and that the vendor has provided good service support. Notwithstanding this, Eveready has deployed a SAN solution from HP to meet its new business requirements. While the EMC SAN is currently being used for other business processes, the production environment's requirements are handled by the new HP EVA 4400 SAN.

"We did consider EMC SAN solutions during the evaluation process. Apart from this, other vendors like IBM and Netapp were also taken into consideration. We conducted an extensive study using different SAN vendor whitepapers to evaluate how these solutions fare, when used in conjunction with Oracle E-Business. HP fulfilled our requirements on the feature as well as cost fronts," says Choudhary.

The SAN selection process took two months, while product procurement was performed in eight weeks. The entire SAN implementation was completed in a month, and the SAN went live in June 2009. The SAN units have been configured in a formation of 24 fibre channel disks of 300 GB each, supplemented by 12 fibre channel ATA disks with individual capacities of 1 TB. The units are located in Eveready's Kolkata headquarters. The new SAN project has been rolled out with an investment of Rs 50,00,000.

As part of its new storage architecture, Eveready has set up a disaster recovery unit (other than tape backup). SAN to SAN copy and SAN to tape copy arrangements are also in place to efficiently secure the data. "A similar storage setup of slightly lesser configuration has been used for DR to replicate the production SAN. In case something happens to the production environment, we already have data in our disaster recovery setup," says Choudhary.

As part of its new storage architecture, Eveready has set up a disaster recovery unit. SAN to SAN copy and SAN to tape copy arrangements are also in place to efficiently secure the data.

Eveready's IT team faced challenges when it came to determination of the right SAN configuration for its requirements. The HP EVA 4400 solution is available with two options — snap clone and mirror clone — each with its unique pros and cons. "We went with mirror clone. In this feature, the production database can be restored from its clone in case of problems. If it is a snap clone, the database has to be down for certain period for a restore — not exactly a desirable situation," says Choudhury.

During the SAN deployment, Eveready's IT team also faced a downtime issue, which was immediately resolved by HP. "The SAN went down during deployment. HP was very quick to respond to this problem, and immediately sent it to their labs for analysis," says Choudhary.

Business benefits

With the new SAN architecture, Eveready's users have better efficiency levels due to increased application performance. This new architecture also facilitates the implementation of more application modules beneficiary to the business.

Talking about future storage plans, Choudhury expects the current SAN architecture to handle Eveready's requirements for the next five years. "Beyond that timeframe, we might need to add more boxes. We also intend to shift our DR site from Kolkata to another location after a year," says Choudhury.

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