BGC Partners, a provider of voice and electronic brokerage services, had an e-mail environment that could not easily scale to support expansion and did not provide adequate flexibility. In addition, exponential growth in the volume of e-mail messages and data created performance, stability, and storage issues. To address these challenges, BGC deployed Microsoft® Exchange Server 2010. By doing so, the company was able to replace the storage area network (SAN) that supported its e-mail system with lower cost direct-attached storage. The new solution improves system flexibility, performance, and stability. As a result, BGC has increased IT administrators’ productivity by up to 30 percent and reduced the time required to recover from system outages by 50 percent. BGC was also able to reallocate the existing SAN and avoid spending U.S.$1 million on SAN infrastructure for other projects.
BGC Partners is a leading global intermediary to the wholesale financial markets, specializing in the brokering of a broad range of financial products, including fixed income securities, interest rate swaps, foreign exchange, equities, equity derivatives, credit derivatives, commodities, futures, structured products, and other instruments. BGC Partners also provides services including trade execution, broker-dealing, clearing, processing, information, and other back-office services to financial and non-financial institutions. Through its eSpeed, BGC Trader, and BGCantor Market Data brands, the company operates multiple buyer and seller real-time electronic marketplaces for the world’s most liquid capital markets. The company also provides innovative market data and analysis products for numerous financial instruments and markets. The customers of BGC Partners include many of the world’s largest banks, broker-dealers, investment banks, trading firms, hedge funds, governments, and investment firms.
||By replacing our SAN with lower cost direct-attached storage using Exchange Server 2010, we were able to avoid spending $1 million on SAN infrastructure for other projects.
Global Wintel Manager
BGC Partners has approximately 1,400 brokers and more than 2,400 employees in 19 offices around the world. In 2008, BGC earned U.S.$1.2 billion in revenue.
BGC strives to provide the highest possible levels of system performance and availability, especially with its e-mail system. A large portion of corporate communication is conducted through e-mail, and each day the system processes approximately 100,000 messages and supports 7,200 mailboxes. Until recently, the system was based on Microsoft® Exchange Server 2003 Enterprise Edition.
BGC used a storage area network (SAN) and backed up the system on tape. Although this solution made it possible to recover from a catastrophic disaster, the replication and backup processes slowed overall system performance and drove up costs: the SAN hardware was expensive and the SAN required additional software and a third-party maintenance contract.
Rapid growth in the volume of e-mail messages and data also slowed system performance. To facilitate acceptable system response times, administrators constantly monitored and optimized server workloads and had to frequently move mailboxes, defrag databases, and resolve data corruption issues. Despite administrators’ efforts, end users did not always realize the performance levels they expected, and as a result, support calls increased.
BGC had also found that changing business requirements necessitated a more flexible and scalable e-mail solution. Administrators wanted more granular control over users’ system access privileges, and they sought tools that could help ease compliance with regulations. In addition, end users wanted the ability to store more than 5,000 items in an e-mail folder. Some employees also needed mailboxes that were 1 gigabyte (GB) in size.
With mailbox sizes growing by 60 percent each year, BGC knew that it was time for a new solution. In 2008, the company began to investigate e-mail products that could speed system responsiveness, enhance scalability, and simplify administrative processes. In addition, the company wanted to shorten its recovery time objective (RTO)—or the time required to restore a system after an outage.
After an initial decision to deploy Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, BGC ultimately decided to recreate its e-mail architecture with Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and the Windows Server® 2008 R2 Enterprise operating system. Exchange Server 2010 offered capabilities that would make it possible for BGC to address its challenges. For example, 64-bit processing, Database Availability Groups, and Role Based Access Control (RBAC) would help to boost performance, stability, and control. In addition, Exchange Server 2010 reduces disk input/output compared to earlier versions of Exchange Server, so BGC could use lower cost storage options. “We realized that Exchange Server 2010 provides a rich feature set, and saw that it would allow us to reallocate our Exchange Server 2003 SAN environment and go with inexpensive direct-attached storage instead,” says Scott Heasman, Global Wintel Manager at BGC. “As a result, we’d realize faster performance while reducing costs.”
BGC worked with Microsoft to design a new e-mail infrastructure and tested Exchange Server 2010 for five months. In September 2009, the company deployed its new e-mail solution. The supporting hardware includes 12 server computers that are HP ProLiant DL380 G5 or G6 models. The server computers are divided into two Database Availability Groups that each support regional end users: one Database Availability Group resides in the United Kingdom and the other is in the United States. In each Database Availability Group, four server computers support the primary e-mail environment and two server computers run a replicated version of the primary system. All server computers run multiple server roles. Currently, the four primary server computers include four Mailbox servers, two Hub Transport servers, and two Client Access servers. The secondary server computers include two Mailbox servers, two Client Access servers, and two Hub Transport servers.
||With Exchange Server 2003, we could restore e-mail within one hour. With Exchange Server 2010, we have cut our recovery time objective in half.
US Wintel Manager
In addition, the new e-mail solution uses a low-cost, high-speed direct-attached storage (DAS) solution. It includes two HP StorageWorks 70 Modular Smart Array storage systems that feature 25 Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) disks that can each store 146 GB. The DAS solution segments all data across multiple disks, and the disks are also mirrored.
BGC will set up an additional Database Availability Group in a data center in Asia to support users in that region. In addition, the company will add one more server to each Database Availability Group in the United States and the UK to facilitate disaster recovery (DR) for the other region. As a result, the DR server computer in the United States can take over and support the e-mail system for employees in the UK, something that was not possible before; conversely, the DR server computer in the UK can support the e-mail system for the employees in the United States. Administrators will set the replay lag time for each DR server computer to about 15 minutes, so that any malicious code that impacts the primary and secondary server computers will not impact the DR systems.
Administrators expect to complete the migration to Exchange Server 2010 by the beginning of 2010. In addition, BGC is evaluating Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2007 to enhance backup and recovery processes.
By deploying a new e-mail solution based on Exchange Server 2010, BGC has been able to take advantage of lower cost storage and reduce its RTO by 50 percent. The company is benefiting from greater flexibility and control and improved performance and stability. In addition, IT administrators have increased productivity by up to 30 percent.
Saves More Than $1 Million in IT Costs
Exchange Server 2010 has helped BGC to greatly simplify its storage and realize significant cost avoidance. “We can reprovision our SAN a hundred times over within our company to meet the needs of various departments,” says Heasman. “By replacing our SAN with lower cost direct-attached storage using Exchange Server 2010, we were able to avoid spending $1 million on SAN infrastructure for other projects.”
Shortens RTO by 50 Percent
Today, BGC can more rapidly recover from any system failure, because its e-mail environments are replicated on numerous server computers in multiple locations. “With Database Availability Groups we keep seven copies of each database online,” explains Ramrup. “So if there is any disaster or corruption in our database, our time to recovery is drastically reduced opposed to the previous system where we had to restore from tape and then rebuild the database. With Exchange Server 2003, we could restore e-mail within one hour. With Exchange Server 2010, we have cut our recovery time objective in half.”
||We’re gaining a 20 to 30 percent increase in administrators’ productivity. Exchange Server 2010 is more reliable. This means that administrators have fewer issues to resolve and end users have a much better experience.
US Wintel Manager
Enhances Flexibility and Control
The new solution gives BGC greater flexibility in how it supports user and business requirements. For example, administrators will increase the mailbox size for some employees to 1 GB and keep others at 300 MB. The DAS solution is also easier to scale, and administrators can quickly move any Exchange Server 2010 database to a new server computer and keep the users online. End users can also store more than 5,000 items in an Exchange Server 2010 folder without slowing system performance.
Administrators can also better manage user access privileges with RBAC. “Exchange Server 2010 gives us a lot more granularity in how we control our users,” says Ramrup. “RBAC provides more choice and control over roles, policies, and managed folders for individual users. This gives us the flexibility to create and maintain the administrative model we wanted.”
Boosts Performance and Stability
The new e-mail solution automatically eliminates bottlenecks that previously slowed performance—such as system backups that consumed excessive computer resources or high message volumes that were not properly distributed across server computers. “We’re going to see our biggest performance gains with Exchange Server 2010 as a result of the new capabilities of the Hub Transport servers,” says Ramrup. “They are more resilient, and they automatically load balance themselves and the Client Access servers. This not only removes the administrative burden, but it also improves performance because the system automatically decides which path will be the best to transport messages more quickly.”
Database Availability Groups also provide automatic database-level failover, so if a file becomes corrupt, Exchange Server 2010 automatically retrieves the file from an available copy of the database. “The ability of Exchange Server 2010 to self-heal eliminates issues including database corruption,” explains Ramrup. “In the past, if a database grew past a certain size, we had to be very careful with it. Now, our database can grow well over the 200 GB mark and still perform as fast as a much smaller database.”
Increases IT Productivity by up to 30 Percent
When the company needs to scale its e-mail solution to meet future demands, administrators can do so in less time. “Building out the infrastructure with Exchange Server 2010 and Windows Server 2008 R2 is actually very easy,” Ramrup explains. “Exchange Server 2010 conducts pre-checks to make sure that we have all of the necessary components prior to an install.”
Because more administrative processes are automated and end-user satisfaction is increasing, administrators have fewer issues to address. “We’re gaining a 20 to 30 percent increase in administrators’ productivity,” says Ramrup. “Exchange Server 2010 is more reliable. This means that administrators have fewer issues to resolve and end users have a much better experience.”
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Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 can help you achieve better business outcomes while controlling the costs of deployment, administration, and compliance. Exchange Server 2010 delivers the widest range of deployment options, integrated information leakage protection, and advanced compliance capabilities, which combine to form the best messaging and collaboration solution available.
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Document published November 2009