Super Religare Laboratories (SRL) , one of India's largest pathology laboratory networks, services nearly 4,000 hospitals and path labs. It caters to approximately eight million patients a year and offers a range of over 3,500 tests. SRL commenced operations in 1996, and has since expanded its business to the Gulf, UK and SAARC countries. With business expansion plans on the horizon, SRL began to feel the need for more space and the associated shifting of its premises. At this point of time, relocation of its data center also came up.
Data center relocation has never been an easy decision to make for any organization—SRL's case proved no different. Says Radhakrishna Pillai, CIO at SRL, "Relocation of data center infrastructure made more sense for us because we wanted a complete makeover. To ensure this, we needed a larger area—the new place had to perfectly fit our needs." Since the entire data center operations were moving, it was vital to strategically select the location although it was moving within the precincts of Mumbai city. One of the main criteria was uninterrupted supply of electricity; another criterion was connectivity. The team also had to ensure that the site was safe from flooding and other natural calamities. A lot of lessons were learnt while building SRL's earlier data center facility, and these were leveraged this time round.
SRL's new data center has been entirely designed and built by external consultants, but it is being managed by the in-house team. The organization has not re-used any of the old components (apart from a few servers) during data center relocation.
SRL encountered several critical concerns during relocation of its data center. "We literally went through a nail-biting situation over shifting the entire operational systems from one location to the other," recalls Pillai. Ensuring minimal operational downtime was critical for SRL. A stumbling block at this time was difficulty in collaborating with multiple service providers for connectivity. Though the relocation of data center took less than 24 hours, the entire process (including infrastructure) took months. SRL's disaster recovery facility is located at Gurgaon.
The new data center facility has around six racks (as compared to three racks in the earlier data center). There is a mix of servers from HP, Sun and IBM running on Windows as well as Solaris platforms. These servers are connected to EMC storage. Oracle and SQL databases are utilized at the backend, with a monthly data growth of around 30 GB.
Data archival is a key requirement in healthcare due to high volumes of scientific data. An active archival arrangement is in place to meet this requirement. Data is archived and kept separately to ensure no compromises in the production system.
Power and cooling—and the associated savings—topped the list of concerns during SRL's data center relocation exercise. Unlike other business facilities, a laboratory facility needs cooling of the entire setup. Emerson systems are being used for power and cooling for the UPS as well as servers. The redundancy for servers is 1+1, which is also supported by the main UPS. There are three UPS systems (of which the data center has two—one for backup and the other for online). Apart from that, a higher-capacity UPS sits behind the data center UPS.
SRL's data center relocation checklist kept a high emphasis on design. Explains Pillai, "The design is of utmost importance, and it should ensure proper utilization of every inch of space. If you are not thorough on this front, it can lead to a lot of unnecessary power consumption."
A phased and calculated relocation of a data center is one of the most efficient approaches. This is why SRL is taking the wait and watch approach after its data center relocation exercise. "Implementation of new technology will come in the next phase. At present, we are waiting for operations to stabilize, especially the application part," says Pillai, as he signs off.