StarHub is a pioneer in the delivery of converged services, providing a full range of information, communications and entertainment offerings for both the consumer and corporate markets. Its business has been growing and with it, the volume of business communications. To cater for this without incurring a steep escalation in storage costs, it decided to trial Microsoft Exchange 2010, which will allow it to use less costly Tier 2 and 3 storage for user mailboxes.
Compared with its previous version of Exchange – Exchange 2003 - the newer version will also potentially enable StarHub to minimise business disruption in the event of a system failure. Same site failover will be almost immediate, while disaster recovery can be reduced from four or five hours to less than 30 minutes.
Launched in 2000, StarHub is one of Singapore's most innovative info-communications providers and a pioneer in “hubbing” - the ability to deliver unique integrated and converged services to all its customers. It offers a full range of information, communications and entertainment services for both the consumer and corporate markets.
The company has over 2,700 full-time staff. Since 2005, it has been using Microsoft Exchange 2003 as a platform for its staff to communicate with each other as well as with customers and partners. Users can also access the Public Folder on the Exchange system to book resources such as meeting rooms.
||With Exchange 2010, if one site goes down, operations can failover to the second site, and email and other services can continue without causing any business disruption.
||Kwan Choon Tuck
Assistant Vice President
StarHub’s Infrastructure Services
However, as its business grows, the volume of communications has also been rising exponentially. Currently each user is given a fraction of the recommended limit of 1 GB for each Exchange 2003 mailbox. The limited mailbox size allocation is due to the high cost of Tier 1 storage on which the Exchange storage is based. Increasing this storage allocation requires careful cost justification. As Mr. Kwan Choon Tuck, Assistant Vice President for StarHub’s Infrastructure Services explains, “The architecture of Exchange 2003 uses Tier 1 SAN or storage area networks which is very expensive, so any increase in mailbox size can be very costly.”
Another issue that StarHub faces is system availability and the time needed for a full system recovery in the event of a disaster. “Email is considered to be a mission-critical system, so we cannot allow it to fail,” said Mr. Kwan.
With Exchange 2003, this has been a concern because it would typically take up to 30 minutes to recover from the same site, and four to five hours to recover from a remote site. Meanwhile, Outlook users would be offline during the recovery process.
To address these issues, StarHub decided to embark on a trial deployment of the new Microsoft Exchange 2010 which would provide greater flexibility for the company to use less costly Tier 2 or Tier 3 direct attached storage - a move that could potentially cut storage costs by up to four times.
Exchange 2010 also provides high availability and faster disaster recovery through features such as the Database Availability Group (DAG). DAG is a set of mailbox servers that use continuous replication to update database copies, manage failures that affect individual databases, and provide automatic recovery from a variety of failures at the disk, server and data centre levels.
“With Exchange 2010, if one site goes down, operations can failover to the second site, and email and other services can continue without causing any business disruption,“ said Mr. Kwan.
In deciding on the upgrade for its messaging platform, another key consideration for StarHub was that there should be minimal disruption for users during the migration process. This meant no impact to the users’ email profile during the mailbox migration, and the assurance that the new system could co-exist with Exchange 2003 so that there would be no lost or unrouted emails. At the same time, the increase in mailbox size should not come at the expense of performance or have any negative impact on the user experience.
StarHub began planning for the trial deployment in September 2009. This involved replicating its production environment to the test environment and running a clone of the Exchange 2003 system together with the new Exchange 2010 to see if they could co-exist.
One issue that emerged during the process was that Exchange 2010 users could not access the Exchange 2003 Public Folder and Address Book. The problem was eventually solved with the help of the Microsoft Support Centre.
Once the testing was completed, the Exchange 2010 server was rolled out to about 150 trial users. These users were located at one site, with Exchange 2010 running on two HP blade servers to ensure high availability and to leverage on its DAG capabilities.
With DAG, Exchange 2010 is able to support multiple replicas of a database, allowing for a quick failover at the same user site or to a remote disaster recovery site. If a system goes down, StarHub will be able to switch to a standby database instantaneously, without the users noticing. Failover time will depend on the size of the database and how long it would take to shut down. In a typical scenario, the failover would take less than 10 minutes. For failover to a remote disaster recovery site, it could take slightly longer – less than 30 minutes by conservative estimates.
The trial Exchange 2010 solution was implemented by HP in collaboration with Microsoft Consulting Services. The storage used was Hitachi Data Systems’ Adaptable Modular Storage 2500.
HP has worked with hundreds of enterprises around the world on messaging and unified communication solutions. With more than 22,000 Microsoft-trained engineers — including more than 3,600 Microsoft Certified System Engineers and Microsoft Certified Solution Developers — it delivers infrastructure and business offerings that span Microsoft software licenses, lifecycle services around Exchange 2010 and a complete line of industry-standard servers and storage solutions. HP also brings to the table a suite of innovative energy-efficient technologies that come with its latest generation of ProLiant servers – the HP ProLiant G6 servers.
HP and Microsoft are bringing information worker computing to the next level by launching a global initiative to deliver unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) solutions. Exchange 2010 is one of the underpinning technologies. HP and Microsoft seek to enable forward-thinking enterprises to integrate context-sensitive communication capabilities into the line-of-business applications to truly realize the benefits of unified communications and collaboration solutions.
The benefits to be gained from deploying Exchange 2010 to the whole organization range from smoother backups and faster recovery time to cost savings arising from the use of Tier 2 and 3 storage for StarHub’s ever-increasing volume of email. Details of these and other potential benefits should StarHub proceed with a full deployment are listed below.
Seamless and more efficient backup With DAG, backups can be done during office hours from the passive copies of the active database, with little or no performance overhead. This also translates into improved service levels as more recent copies of emails can be recovered for users.
Faster recovery time
The ability to reduce disaster recovery time from up to five hours to less than 30 minutes translates into higher availability of the mail server, reducing business disruption.
By allowing greater flexibility in use of Tier 2 and 3 storage, StarHub is able to increase the size of the user mailbox by up to 10 times without significant additional hardware investment. This translates into considerable cost savings, given that SAN storage could cost up to four times that of Tier 2 or Tier 3 storage.
Exchange 2010 runs more cost effectively by taking advantage of the Hitachi Adaptable Modular Storage 2500 SAS architecture (the first in the industry) by leveraging its unique capability like Hitachi Dynamic Provisioning to help StarHub simplify storage management, reduce cost of over-provisioning capacity and improve performance.
Reduced administration and support overheads
The auto setup feature in Outlook 2007 with Exchange 2010 makes it easy for users to set up email accounts, without needing them to input information such as the Exchange server name. This self-service capability will reduce the number of calls to the service desk.
Unlike Exchange 2003, the size of each mailbox can go up to 10GB each for Exchange 2010. This ensures that there is plenty of headroom for growth. Users can also be allocated more storage up front, reducing the number of requests to increase mailbox size, which currently makes up about 15 per cent of email-related support calls.
The Hitachi Adaptable Modular Storage 2500 is an extremely scalable and reliable storage system, with symmetric active-active load balancing controllers that automatically perform many complex and time consuming tasks that administrators routinely face.
For More Information
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For more information about StarHub products and services, call +65-6825 5000 or visit the Web site at:
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.
For more information about Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, go to:
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This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Document published April 2010