Customer: a leading Italian food company.
After acquiring another company, our customer needed to combine two IT systems, starting from the network domains, e-mail and BlackBerry (BB) services. The email environments of the two companies were heterogeneous and difficult to manage: one was based on Exchange 2003 (no longer supported by Microsoft) and the other one on Exchange 2010, for a total of 250 mailboxes. Each mailbox had 2 GB of available space, which limited users’ daily work. Few users made use of BB services but their position in the company made them critical.
We proposed to migrate e-mail services (including the spam filter) and BlackBerry BES to Office 365, independently from the migration of the network domains and by removing the related physical servers. The two migrations were handled separately, in order to reduce their complexity and to avoid possible disruptions. All clients have been updated to Office 2010 SP2, to ensure maximum compatibility with Microsoft cloud services.
The mobile services embedded in Office 365 offered the users a new potential. In order to fully exploit them, BB users have been asked to move to Windows or Android.
To make it easy, we first migrated the email addresses hosted on Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2010 servers. Then, we updated these servers to the minimum standards required by Microsoft for a hybrid deployment.
At the same time, we synchronized the Active Directory with Office 365 through Microsoft DirSync, which synchronizes passwords and allows users to keep the same password on the Active Directory and in the cloud.
After this step, in a test lab we checked the migration with the customer and assessed all possible PCs/users combinations for each domain and identified the best strategy to adopt when migrating users.
Once the procedures had been identified, the migration started. During this step, our system engineers joined the in-house IT experts and systematically followed the migration of every single user. The support of our technicians was crucial to solve compatibility issues due to antivirus old versions and other problems related to the in-house proxy server.
At the project completion the customer was fully satisfied and could benefit from many advantages:
• Thanks to Office 365, the customer enjoys an integrated software platform that provides cloud-based services, e.g. email service.
• The difficult task of managing a whole email service and a BB environment disappeared, as well as the need to manage and maintain physical servers. This was possible by updating the versions of Exchange and monitoring critical services such as email and BB services (on average, 60% of complaints regard the email service).
• The email service improved and became more reliable, thanks to the high degree of availability offered by Microsoft Office 365 data centers, capable of delivering a 99.999% uptime.
• The software program is continuously updated and properly configured.
• The available storage space for each email address went from 2GB to 50GB (25x), and it was included in the service basic fee.
• An integrated and fully customizable spam filter has been provided.
• The downtime during migration was only 10 minutes for each user!
• How much did it cost? The costs were the same needed to buy and update all MS Exchange licenses!
Customer: a leading Italian enterprise in the field of Fashion Press.
Our costumer acquired a company in Hong Kong and wanted to turn it into its Asian subsidiary. They asked to establish a “local” data center in order to offer new employees the same working tools used in Italy, and to avoid the costs of buying and maintaining a hardware infrastructure located thousands of kilometers away.
After a careful analysis and field testing, we proposed our customer the following solution: a virtual infrastructure on Microsoft Azure cloud, and the Microsoft’s data center in South-East Asia to host the virtual servers. The new infrastructure is a complete Active Directory domain, to be configured as an extension of the Italian domain. We established a permanent VPN connection between the Italian server farm and Azure, and enabled a safe interaction between the two infrastructures. The connection was necessary to synchronize Microsoft Active Directory services and to allow exchanging data between the two systems through an encrypted VPN connection. The new Asian virtual infrastructure was configured with a domain controller (working as a file server), two Microsoft SQL servers, and three application servers, providing almost 50 users with working tools through Remote App technology.
Then, we installed a small physical server in the Asian subsidiary. This server worked both as a local domain controller (providing a connection to the PCs located on-site) and as a local cache for some files (which were then synchronized with the cloud-based server via DFS, Distributed File System). Then, we created on SQL servers a replica to synchronize the content of some databases with the Italian server farm, in order to make data available from both sites. Finally, our programmers modified the Italian applications to make them compatible with the new infrastructure.
By doing so, the users in South-East Asia could connect to the remote resources at an optimal speed and with a very low response time. This would have been impossible if the Italian infrastructure had to provide access also to Asian users. Meanwhile, users in Italy could keep using the existing infrastructure without worrying about the location of data, since they were constantly replicated.
This project provided our customer with substantial advantages, hard to deliver with a traditional physical infrastructure:
• The whole infrastructure has been installed and configured in a few days, the time needed to configure and organize a physical server.
• The system is easily manageable thanks to completely virtualized services, which do not require hardware maintenance.
• The infrastructure has a superlative scalability: starting with a few resources, it is possible to gradually increase the number of resources as the business grows, without buying new hardware. The costs are proportional to the actual use of resources.
• The cost is lower than that of a traditional infrastructure and distributed over time.
• The security of data is guaranteed: they are replicated in the cloud and on the pre-existing Italian infrastructure and transmitted over an encrypted channel.
Customer: an insurance company.
The customer had a twofold need: 1) a server farm adapting to its business needs and 2) greater system security and stability in case of failures or malfunctioning.
The company had a growing demand for processing power and storage capacity to provide IT services. This led to issues with the available space on the server farm and the cooling systems that were too small to support the rapid growth of the infrastructure. Furthermore, the IVASS regulation on compliance and risk management required higher levels of data protection and availability for the IT services.
The client compared the costs of upgrading the facility and expanding their server farm with the advantages that he could get, in terms of space recovery and growth potential, with a hosting service on the Be-Simple server farm. Then they decided to migrate everything in the server farm.
The availability of a new server farm enabled a disaster recovery solution that could increase the resilience of the IT services.
The customer server farm was secured in two steps:
• Step 1: the systems have been migrated from the customer’s data center to the Be-Simple’s data center.
• Step 2: the disaster recovery solution has been implemented.
In order to migrate the systems to the Be-Simple’s data center and minimize the impact on operations, we first analyzed the services provided, the applications, the physical systems involved, and their interdependence. For each system we created an inventory, and mapped its physical connections.
Once we had a complete picture, we planned the activities to be carried out. Our aim was to execute them in one weekend. The systems had to be shut down on Friday afternoon and fully reactivated by 2 p.m. on the following Monday.
On Friday we made a backup of the whole data center by using a temporary storage that ensured data integrity and safety, and provided a consistent environment in case of a roll-back.
On Saturday morning, the systems were turned off, disassembled, prepared for transportation, loaded on the vehicles of a fully insured carrier, who drove them to the Be-Simple’s server farm. Then we reassembled the systems in 4 racks and rebooted them.
At 6 p.m., 60% of the systems were already up and running. On Sunday morning, all systems had been rebooted and the final tests carried out. At 2 p.m., everything was fully operational, one day ahead of schedule. On Monday morning, when the users were back at work and nobody noticed the change.
The network connection between the customer’s premises and the server farm was ensured by an optical fiber link at 1 GB/s speed.
The infrastructure that was migrated included:
• A blade server
• Some rack mountable servers
• A Storage Area Network (SAN)
• A backup system
• The core network infrastructure
The operations carried out in Step 1 were particularly sensitive, and that persuaded the customer on the need of a disaster recovery system, that could prevent any loss of data and allow to restart applications in the event of serious breakdowns or unavailable data center.
Therefore we proposed replicate data and applications in a second server farm. In the event of a disaster, the most important systems could be restarted on the secondary server farm. The client decided to fully rely on Be-Simple, both for implementing the solution and renting the entire disaster recovery infrastructure.
Since the SAN contained both the virtual machines (VM) and the users’ file systems, we proposed the FULL copy of the customer’s SAN and of its critical machines on a virtual environment (VMware). By doing so we ensured the availability of all possible data at the DR site and prevented possible failures during the activation of new virtual servers.
Therefore, we had to copy data for about 10TB. This was possible thanks to the tools provided by the storage technology, which had been properly configured by our experts.
The primary site (Be-Simple server farm), the customer’s premises where users operate, and the DR site have been connected through an optical fiber ring in layer 2.
Here are some of the advantages:
• A cutting-edge data center that offers a highly reliable environment, high-speed connection, and scalability.
• Space and resources available to install 12 new workstations.
• The customer IT service compliant with the rules on data protection established by IVASS regulations.
• A DR solution providing RPO (Recovery Point Objective) and RTO (Recovery Time Objective) levels in line with the business needs (RPO<1 h; RTO<12 h), as well as a sufficient business continuity level.