Pošta Slovenije needed a robust, easy-to-use disaster recovery (DR) solution before it could expand its hosting services to external customers. It chose the Windows Server 2012 R2 automated DR and multisite replication solution and a Windows
Azure-based management console as the solution to expand its business. Pošta Slovenije expects to reduce storage costs and improve service for its customers and employees.
Pošta Slovenije has been serving the citizens of Slovenia for decades, but recently it has seen a drop in business revenue. The state-owned entity is looking at other sources of income and is turning to its IT department for leadership.
The IT department manages two data centers that house more than 1,200 servers running the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system with Service Pack 1 (SP1). Pošta Slovenije uses Hyper-V virtualization technology to host 500 virtual machines—in clusters and
on stand-alone servers. Employees rely on business productivity solutions hosted on a Hyper-V private cloud—Microsoft Exchange Server, SQL Server, and SharePoint Server—and it was this scenario that gave Pošta Slovenije the idea to expand its hosting business
to paying customers.
“We have begun offering archive services and virtual instances of Exchange Server software to local customers,” says Damijan Goropevšek, System Engineer at Pošta Slovenije. “However, before we could expand our hosting business, we had to be able to provide
customers with security-enabled, highly available solutions. So it was necessary to address a shortfall in our disaster recovery [DR] capabilities.”
Pošta Slovenije had created geoclusters whereby the servers—and the applications that they host—reside in different locations, supported by underlying physical storage that’s synchronously replicated between the sites.
“We use expensive fiber-optic storage replication, which is too expensive a DR method to support our hosting business,” says Goropevšek. “And storage replication doesn’t include the applications. We needed to fail over applications between the data centers
quickly and easily to minimize the impact of planned and unplanned events.”
Also, the disaster recovery plans that IT staff had created for internal services were manual. “We performed planned failovers every six months, but they sometimes caused downtime for a day,” says Goropevšek. “This would never work for external customers.”
||We had an idea to increase income but lacked the business continuity that it required. With a DR solution from Microsoft, we can build a hosting business with the high availability that customers demand.
| Damijan Goropevšek
System Engineer, Pošta Slovenije
Pošta Slovenije turned to a cost-effective, easily deployed disaster recovery solution from Microsoft. It includes the Windows Server 2012 R2 operating system and Hyper-V Replica, which replicates virtual machines over IP-based networks to a remote site.
The solution incorporates a cloud-based administration console to orchestrate DR plans called Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager, which is integrated with the Virtual Machine Manager component of Microsoft System Center 2012 R2. Because Hyper-V Recovery
Manager is delivered via a control panel in the Windows Azure Management Portal it is available to Pošta Slovenije IT staffers as long as they have an Internet connection.
“We liked that Hyper-V Replica in Windows Server 2012 R2 offers flexible replication intervals and adds the possibility of replicating virtual machines to a third site. We plan to build a third data center in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia,” says Goropevšek.
“Windows Server 2012 R2 streamlines DR with a single, always-available control panel so we can easily create and run an automated DR plan, specifying the sequence of how we shut down and bring up virtual machines.”
The Pošta Slovenije IT team worked with Microsoft Services Consulting to test the new DR scenario within the development environment. The teams deployed a server running Windows Server 2012 R2, Hyper-V Replica, and System Center 2012 R2 Virtual Machine Manager
at each data center. They added Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 workloads and set the replication interval at five minutes.
“We have always had great support from Microsoft Services and this was no exception,” says Goropevšek. “We tested planned failover of SQL Server and monitored network traffic during the process, and everything worked perfectly. We expect our recovery point
objective to be 10 minutes and recovery time objective is expected to be 5 minutes.”
With a cloud-integrated disaster recovery solution from Microsoft, Pošta Slovenije has the business continuity solution that it needs to supplement its revenue with a new line of business. “We had an idea to increase income but lacked the business continuity
that it required,” says Goropevšek. “With a DR solution from Microsoft, we can build a hosting business with the high availability that customers demand.”
Pošta Slovenije anticipates the following benefits:
Reduced costs. With the new DR solution, Pošta Slovenije can replace its Fibre Channel storage system with less expensive local storage. “We’ll also reduce IT administration costs with automated recovery plans that save time compared with
our manual processes,” says Goropevšek.
Increased availability. With automated DR services and near-synchronous virtual machine replication, Pošta Slovenije can offer a better service level agreement to customers. And for employees, planned maintenance causing day-long service
outages will be replaced by a few minutes of downtime.
Simplified DR administration. “It takes just a few clicks to set everything up, so we can quickly protect customers’ workloads,” says Goropevšek. “You choose simple settings such as replication frequency, and the system configures the hosts
in both data centers with certificates and firewall rules.”
Enhanced security. The DR solution transmits only metadata about virtual machines and networks for DR orchestration to Windows Azure, so Pošta Slovenije can be sure that its application data remains securely behind its own firewalls. “With
our DR solution based on Windows Server 2012 R2, we can offer customers hosting services that adhere to their security policies,” says Goropevšek.
Expedited development. Pošta Slovenije developers are happy with the DR scenario in their work environment. Rapid, reliable failover expedites the development process as they work through iterations of new solutions and helps ensure their
work will never be lost. “We expect to expedite time-to-benefit for new solutions that will improve Pošta Slovenije service,” concludes Goropevšek.
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