Keeping Our Backups Within Reach: Reorchestrating Backup Processes with Hyperconvergence

HPE SimpliVity

At Libro, we focus on growing prosperity—and that means helping everyone to prosper. We call our customers Owners because they really do own a piece of the company. All customers are shareholders, so that helps to make sure they are our top priority. We are a financial co-operative in southwestern Ontario that puts purpose before profit.

We offer the same banking and wealth management services as bigger banking institutions, and we’re a certified B Corp that meets stringent standards for social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. At Libro, we believe in providing financial coaching for Owners, and making sure they have the tools they need to make sound fiscal decisions, no matter the size of their investment.

I've been with Libro for just over a year. As a system analyst, I've helped the organization revise our HPE SimpliVity hyperconverged infrastructure to boost the capacity of our production virtualized workload environment, improve the efficiency of our disaster recovery data centre, as well as augmenting our backup infrastructure. 

Libro installed HPE SimpliVity as the core infrastructure at our primary and secondary data centres before I started working here, but I can tell you the logic behind this decision. We were looking for simplicity, speed, and best-in-class deduplication and backup functionalities. 

Hyperconvergence Saves Time, Effort, and Space

Traditional data centre infrastructure takes up too much space and uses too much energy. Cabling SANs to servers is time-consuming, and managing VMs, VDIs, and storage in such an environment requires an IT support team to master a jumble of platforms and utilities that don't always play well together. 

Traditional data centre environments often take a team to master their complexity. It might be time to look at hyperconvergence.

It's hard enough to get all of this right under normal circumstances, but staying on top of everything in the event of a system failure can tax even the most experienced network engineers. HPE SimpliVity modules combine storage and compute in compact nodes that are easy to install and maintain. The built-in deduplication, compression, backup, and restore functionalities allow us to maximize storage space, to create short-term archives of customer and transaction data for regulatory purposes, and to build instantly-accessible mirrors of mission-critical VMs should an issue arise.

Moving from Large to Extra-Large HPE SimpliVity Nodes

When we first deployed HPE SimpliVity, we opted for two large nodes at our production environment, and another large node at our secondary site. We have since upgraded our primary environment to a trio of extra-large HPE SimpliVity nodes and have transferred all three original nodes to our backup data centre. 

This transition required some juggling on our part. We built the XL HPE SimpliVity nodes in a separate environment and then moved one of the large ones from our primary to the secondary site. We then backed up our production VMs and ping-ponged them from site to site. Finally, we transferred our entire production environment to the XL nodes at our primary data centre, and moved all the backups to the older nodes at the disaster recovery site.

We also set up a separate HPE SimpliVity environment—comprising one node each at our production and recovery data centres—to power our VDI infrastructure. 

In total, our production environment consists of 93 VMs, all of which we backup locally. We also copy the most critical of these machines to our disaster recovery environment. We run close to 90 desktops on our VDI environment as well, and these are also backed up locally and remotely.

Mission-critical data should be backed up regularly, but not all systems need the same RPO.

In terms of frequency, we back up all of our VMs once a day at our primary data centre. Critical servers are also copied over to our DR centre at least daily, but many are backed up hourly, and a few are backed up every ten minutes. 

A Lopsided Environment

We'll soon be adding another node to our disaster recovery data centre because it still lacks the capacity we need to back up our entire primary production environment. For the time being, our HPE SimpliVity environment is lopsided, and we are only backing up mission-critical production VMs, banking servers, and our most used databases to our remote site.

Eventually, we'll start backing up everything to our secondary site except for our long-term archives. These ten systems contain certain types of reports, log files, and transaction data that we have to keep for seven years or more to comply with regulatory requirements. This data is bulky and rarely accessed, and so it makes no sense to store it on pricey SSDs in a hyperconverged environment. 

As a consequence, we'll be hanging on to some of our old-school server racks and HD-based SANs for the next little while.

Night and Day Restores

We have yet to migrate all our VMs to our hyperconverged environment. And we are still backing up some non-critical VMs in our primary site to Commvault daily and also to our local HPE SimpliVity nodes. This way, all of our systems have a second onsite or remote backup. 

When you compare restoring a Commvault backup to restoring an HPE SimpliVity backup, the difference is night and day. With Commvault, we're talking a couple of hours. With HPE SimpliVity, we right-click on a VM, scroll through the available snapshots, and then click restore. Five minutes later, we're up and running again. There's no need to run any scripts or perform any manual configuration tasks.

Everything feels immediate. With HPE SimpliVity, we don't have to log into a separate data recovery system and try to remember a set of instructions we use once every five or six months. Restoring a server is no more complicated than looking it up in the HPE SimpliVity dashboard that is seamlessly integrated in vCenter.

Faster Storage Means Faster Reports

At the same time, moving our most current and crucial data to SSDs means it takes far less time to generate reports. My people have told me that some documents that used to take an hour or more to unspool are now ready in about ten minutes. 

Sometimes, you need to combine reporting speed with recovery speed. A few Mondays back, our Banking Systems team realized they hadn't run a pivotal report the previous Friday. Because they had failed to request it within the prescribed time frame, they no longer had access to the necessary data. As a result, the numbers were incorrect and the report referenced the previous year instead of the previous week.

Using the HPE SimpliVity dashboard, they went back to a snapshot of the server from Friday, spun it up as a temporary VM, pulled the correct data, and generated the right report. 

Slow recovery times can add bottlenecks throughout your company. Don’t stand in your team’s way.

It took less than 10 minutes, and their scheduled meeting went ahead as planned. Hyperconvergence saved the day. There was no way we could have responded this quickly using traditional data centre hardware and old-school recovery software.

More Data in Less Space

By far, the best part of HPE SimpliVity is its combined on-the-fly data compression and deduplication feature, especially given the price of high-speed solid-state storage. For an organization like Libro, the ability to squeeze as much information as possible into the smallest space—and having it instantly available—is crucial to meeting our performance and budget targets. 

The three large HPE SimpliVity nodes at our disaster recovery site have a combined 43 terabytes of storage. At the moment, we're using 37.7 terabytes and we are nearing capacity.

However, if you look at the number of backups we're storing and calculate the actual data the full-size files contain, we're looking at an astounding 4.6 petabytes of information—that's 4,591 terabytes. Our deduplication ratio is 99.2:1 and our compression ratio, 1.3:1, for a combined efficiency rating of 128.9:1.

These figures are staggering. Equally impressive is the fact that there are no delays in accessing all this information and no degradation in performance because HPE SimpliVity's data expansion and compression algorithms work in real time. 

Working Behind the Scenes for Our Owners

HPE SimpliVity is helping Libro's IT team provide the best technology to our employees so they can better serve our owners. 

Using the right IT tools, our coaches and our branch personnel can offer outstanding financial products and services to our personal, business, and community customers. They’re not just financial advisors and wealth managers. They are partners who help our clients navigate the complex world of finance in a way that respects their needs and their values. 

HPE SimpliVity employs the same approach to IT infrastructure. Their team coached us through the process of upgrading our primary data centre and moving the older nodes to our disaster recovery site.

HPE SimpliVity's engineers did all the heavy lifting. They planned and built our data centres the same way we develop our customers' financial portfolios. They optimized our investment to ensure peak performance, long-term yields, and a maximum return so we can turn around and provide the same benefits to our members.