A few months ago, the IT team at Escorts decided to venture into data center consolidation and virtualization and consolidate its four data centers into one central, corporate location. A leading organization in the manufacturing sector in India for over 40 years, Escorts is essentially into agriculture, construction, auto and railway products, with a pan-India presence. While dedicated data centers existed for each of these divisions earlier, a central data center at Faridabad now handles everything. This data center consolidation has resulted in 50% cost savings for Escorts in terms of power usage and manageability.
The two main reasons for deciding on data center consolidation and virtualization were expensive data center space and underutilization of servers. With the number of servers running a single instance increasing, the maintainability, manpower and costs were rising too. Escorts chose IBM virtualization technology to beat this challenge and gain cost, power and management benefits. The corporate data center was established in May 2011; servers and virtualization were in place by November.
We knew that investments at the start of the project do not sustain for more than two years
Vipin Kumar - Group CIO - Escorts
For the data center consolidation project, Escorts evaluated offerings from IBM and HP. “We evaluated HP servers because prior to IBM we had HP servers in our organization,” says Vipin Kumar, the Group CIO at Escorts. The selection of the data center consolidation and virtualization technology was based on the power of the CPU and scalability. “We knew that investments at the start of the project do not sustain for more than two years, hence we opted for a scalable solution,” says Kumar. Escorts opted for IBM Power 750 severs as well as IBM virtualization technology using the AIX operating system.
IBM Virtualization has helped Escorts run all of its ERP systems on just two server boxes. Through IBM Virtualization, the company today runs its application server, test and development servers, quality server and backup server on the same box. The application instance, training instance and production instances run on another. In all Escorts has around nine VMs running all of these instances.
“As part of the data center consolidation initiative, we wanted to standardize all the infrastructure and applications across the group into one. The new data center adheres to all the international norms for operations,” says Kumar.
Through data center consolidation and virtualization Escorts wished to consolidate eight critical applications developed in-house as well as all commercial applications running on ERP and supply chain software. The company has migrated all in-house applications on to a single ERP. “Earlier we had four different instances of ERP and we are now implementing R12 ERP infrastructure for the entire group,” says Kumar.
On the network front, Escorts has partnered with Cisco for the LAN and has installed high-end core switches. The Star network is used for the WAN, with each division provided with multiple paths to the data center.
Redundancy is the prime focus for Escorts. To this end, the organization has incorporated redundant power distributions units, cooling, server installations and networking equipment. Escorts also has a building management system (BMS) installed to handle water leakage, fire hazards, and so on.
Escorts has ensured end-to-end fallback and failover capabilities for its data center consolidation project. All applications have been migrated to the central data center and the organization is now in the process of establishing a DR site located in south India. Escorts opted for the IBM Tivoli backup solution for the new server instances, while it continues with HP Data Protector for the setup existing earlier.
Innovation and gains
Currently, a six-member in-house team takes care of the day-to-day maintenance. “We are negotiating with a few partners to whom we can outsource some of the management,” says Kumar.
Since space in the corporate center is a constraint, considerable innovation was required during the data center consolidation, according to Kumar. The server room capacity was planned in such a way that the existing infrastructure was incorporated into the new infrastructure seamlessly. The server racks and network switches were all shifted and reused in the new environment. “We had to plan it meticulously in order to ensure that there was no disruption to business,” says Kumar.
Following the shift of the servers to the central data center, centralized monitoring, management and cache management has led to higher data security and uptime for applications and server. The BMS has helped the company maintain higher levels of production. According to Kumar, the operating cost has reduced considerably after data center consolidation and IBM Virtualization.
This initiative is just the beginning for Escorts, with several IT projects lined up, starting with disaster recovery and business continuity. “DR/BCP Is part of this project and we have already made the necessary investment in hardware, storage and other infrastructure,” says Kumar.