JR East Japan Information Systems Company (JEIS) develops and operates key systems for JR East Japan Group companies. These systems provide essential support for railway operation management, traveler services, and credit and prepaid cards. JEIS
works to ensure high reliability of its systems. To verify some of its system functions, JEIS used Hyper-V and Hyper-V Replica in Windows Server 2012 to copy data and build a verification environment.
A member of JR East Japan Group, JR East Japan Information Systems Company (JEIS) develops and operates mission-critical systems that are essential for East Japan Railway Company and other JR East Japan Group companies to provide social infrastructures.
To ensure high system reliability, JEIS determines the cause of failures and implements preventive measures by copying data from production environments to verification environments. It is also important to improve availability by making backups of systems
and data and quickly recovering from failures.
“To identify the causes of failures, we need to create the same hardware and application configurations, and the same business data as the production environment,” says Hiroyuki Shimizu, Manager, System Development Division, JEIS.
“Business data in the production environment changes all the time. To replicate these data in a verification environment, we need to copy not just operating systems and applications but also their data from the production environment. So, if a failure occurs,
we have to quickly identify its cause by re-creating the state that existed immediately before the failure and reproducing the failure in a verification environment. We also need to reduce the time it takes us to do that,” says Shimizu.
Previously, JEIS copied data manually for verification between large storage devices, which were placed in the production environment and a verification environment, using a function of these storage devices. However, because it needed to further reduce
development and operation costs, the company wanted to discover how to build a verification environment that could operate at lower costs and still ensure the availability of the production environments.
“We were interested to hear that the new release of Windows Server 2012 has a new feature called Hyper-V Replica, which is a feature used for disaster recovery. We thought that it might be possible to take advantage of the feature,” says Shimizu.
JEIS decided to start working with the release candidate of Windows Server 2012 while it was still in development. The company began the verification project on the assumption that tests would be conducted on actual running systems. Its main concern was whether
Hyper-V Replica, a new feature in Windows Server 2012, could streamline system operations without changing the type of system design that JEIS had created.
||Using Hyper-V Replica, we can now replicate the data of applications and databases every five minutes. The test failover feature enables quick re-creation of failure conditions and remarkably reduces waiting time.
| Hiroyuki Shimizu
System Development Division, JR East Japan Information Systems Company
"We conducted a sampling verification of the main functions, using applications and data of some of the services of one of our systems. Because the system uses different Active Directory services between its production and verification environments, our main
concern was whether replication between different domains was possible,” explains Takashi Nakamura, System Development Division, JEIS.
“Generally, it is thought that replication within the same domain is easier. However, after consulting with Microsoft and implementing various ideas, we were able to complete the replication,” says Nakamura.
In the verification environment, JEIS installed the Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate on eight servers and used Hyper-V to replicate applications and business data from the production environment to the verification environment.
"Although Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V technology was still in the release candidate stage, it was quite close to perfect. Because it supports Japanese as well, it was not necessary to worry about the build process of operating systems and others," says Nakamura.
For the actual configuration, JEIS created a Hyper-V cluster connected with storage in the production environment so that an alternative virtual server could immediately start running in another node when a hardware failure occurs. This means that build
and setup are easier than with failover through the conventional SAN (storage area network) storage.
Also, changing to iSCSI storage can reduce costs while ensuring high availability. In the verification environment, a clustered shared file server and a single-configuration Hyper-V server was built to achieve aggregation into the shared file server with
the use of iSCSI storage.
JEIS also sees the possibility of improving work efficiency by utilizing Windows PowerShell and cmdlets.
Based on the results of the verifications it completed, JEIS is considering building some functions of its systems based on Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 and providing these features for client companies. Also, the company is thinking about adopting Windows
Server 2012 Hyper-V technology for systems that will be updated in the future.
By using Hyper-V and Hyper-V Replica in Windows Server 2012, JEIS successfully achieved its initial goals: greatly streamlining the build process of the verification environment and reducing operation costs by automating replication. Another benefit was the
elimination of human errors caused by manual operation.
To identify the cause of failures, JEIS re-creates the conditions that caused the failure in a verification environment.
Typically, along with the backup of databases, backup files were copied once a day, which took three hours. In addition, transaction logs were copied once every two hours. Although these processes were partially automated, their preparation took time, and
therefore caused a waiting time before the start of the verification process for identifying the cause of failures. Also, using such complicated processes could lead to human errors.
"Using Hyper-V Replica, we can now replicate the data of applications and databases every five minutes. The test failover feature enables quick re-creation of failure conditions and remarkably reduces waiting time,” says Shimizu.
Lighter Workload, Reduced Costs
JEIS looks forward to improved work efficiency and a reduced workload, which translates to reduced operating costs.
"Operations for creating the replicas that are necessary for these procedures are simple and easy to understand, which means that human errors are not likely to occur,” says Nakamura. “Also, since the Hyper-V module for Windows PowerShell is equipped with
Windows Server 2012 by default, we expect to improve work efficiency through the automation enabled by cmdlets.”
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