How YouGov deployed Veeam Backup & Replication

YouGov has deployed Veeam Backup & Replication to switch suppliers following the breakdown of a managed services contract

Online market researcher, YouGov, has deployed Veeam Backup & Replication to switch suppliers following the breakdown of a managed services contract.

The virtual machine (VM) backup software has been used to facilitate migration away from an Interroute managed service in Berlin to a hosted datacentre in London.

Having used Interoute for several years, YouGov found it was paying over the odds for server upgrades, due to the nature of the managed services contract it had signed.

YouGov was limited by the flexibility of the managed service contract. "We ran into a situation where our provider, Interroute, limited our ability to add servers, and charged a 30-40% premium for adding new hosts," says Nick Carter, head of infrastructure and system operations at YouGov.

As a result, he says YouGov decided it would migrate from Berlin to London. But switching suppliers and migrating the datacentre would prove a challenge. Carter admitted the relationship with Interroute had effectively broken down. "We had very little access from Interoute, so getting anything out was almost impossible."

Upgrading hardware

The company's existing HP DL380 G5 server hardware was showing its age and its NetApp SAN was proving expensive to upgrade. Unplugging all the hardware and shipping it to London was not an option.

Berlin used a traditional backup model for physical machines. Symantec NetBackup and Backup Exec were run to back up the content on the HP servers, which hosted the VMs.

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But Carter was concerned the company had 30TB to migrate. Backing up to tape was not possible. 

"The challenge with tape backup is that we would have needed similar hardware. There is also a high potential risk. It would have taken at least two days to get the VMs back online," says Carter.

Carter says the company could not afford any downtime during the switch-over: "We constantly collect data, and operational systems need to be available 100% of the time, so we couldn't shutdown the datacentre."

As part of the migration YouGov also wanted to switch its SAN from NetApp, to Dell Compellent, which offered a tiering system, and easier to use disc arrays. "We were not happy with the performance of NetApp, and each option cost us extra in terms of licensing."

The company set up the London datacentre using a similar configuration to the facility in Berlin, but with a new SAN and new HP servers. 

"In 2011 we made the move to London, with new HP DL380 G7 Proliant servers and the Dell Compellent SAN," says Carter.

"Because the hardware was now no longer identical to Berlin, we had not come up with a decent migration strategy.

"We heard Veeam had backup, so we installed a trial and redeployed one of our VMs from its current location in the Berlin datacentre over to London using a 10Mbps line. We wanted to ensure we did an initial replica then a catchup, before bringing the other machine up."

According to Carter, replicating the VM was straightforward. He said: "You connect Veeam to vCenter, you select which VM to replicate and choose which datastore and network to use."

Each VM of 100GB took a day to replicate over from Berlin to London. For WAN optimisation, YouGov used RiverBed, which supported de-duplication of block data, to speed up the replication.

Altogether, the full migration to London took a month, certain applications like databases and SharePoint could not be replicated with Veeam, so Carter needed to use traditional backup and restore.

We had very little access from Interoute, so getting anything out was almost impossible

Nick Carter, head of infrastructure and system operations at YouGov

"Our Symantec Enterprise Vault archives was one of the big ones," he says. 

This was 3 TB, split across multiple partitions and volumes. "I had no time to contemplate how to move it over with Veeam."

Veeam is now part of regular operations in London. 

"For VM backups we have now stopped using Symantec Backup," says Carter.

YouGov now runs VMs across London and in the US, and these are constantly changing. Carter says the company uses VMware managed folders to simplify Veaam backup. For instance, Veeam is used to back up a Linux long retention folder in VMware.

Lessons learnt

In the Forrester report, Pricing Data center Services, analyst Wolfgang Benkel says: "Hardware prices for new DC components like servers and storage decrease every year, while capacities are growing. With hardware refreshment cycles lasting three to five years, and many contracts lasting longer than three years, clients often do not reap the full benefit from market cost reductions."

So, in a long-term managed services contract, a business can find it is not gaining the cost benefits that come from continued innovation in IT hardware.

Switching suppliers is risky. As Carter found, YouGov did not get much support from its managed service provider once the contract had turned sour. With hindsight, such a contract needs an exit clause guaranteeing the incumbent service provider will give the customer or its new service provider the access required to migrate the service.

YouGov was able to use Veeam to migrate its VMs out of Interroute in Berlin to its new London facility. But clearly the situation it faced was far from ideal.

YouGov opted for a hosted service for its London datacentre. As such it now has full control over the hardware it purchases and installs within the hosting site.

For managed services contract, Forrester’s Benkel recommends IT professionals keep an eye on hardware intensive services like server and storage management services, and ensure that mid and long-term contracts have the right tools in place for periodic price adjustments.

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