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Data Center Project Upgrades Bohai Insurance

13.07.2015 00:00:00

Background

Bohai Property Insurance, also known as Bohai Insurance, is one of the ten most profitable financial institutions in China, with a registered capital of approximately USD $2.22 billion, more than 2,000 employees in 25 provincial branches with over 200 city and county locations. Their business covers a wide range of insurance services such as property loss or damage, liability, credit, guarantee, short-term health and accidental injury, all subject to approval by the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC). China’s insurance industry continues to experience rapid business growth in recent years which also drives the technology requirements for efficient operations of Bohai’s insurance institutions.

Challenges

Bohai Insurance’s original data center was located in its Tianjin headquarters, and supported over 30 application systems, including core services, general ledger for Enterprise Resource Planning, reserve management, reporting, databases, sales support, a call center, and Office Automation (OA). These systems needed to perform extensive Big Data analysis for correlation and complex structures, using diverse data types from databases, virtual machines, image and OA files.

An IT architectural platform upgrade became a top priority for Bohai Insurance. Projected data growth was expected to cause the existing software and hardware to fail to keep up with the necessary expansion requirements within the next three to five years. To handle their thriving insurance business, a new data center was built 20 km away from the current one. Bohai Insurance needed to migrate their existing service systems from the old location to the new one.

The requirements were identified as follows:

  • The database shutdown shall not exceed 12 hours during the migration, as is required by CIRC in terms of system downtime or interruption of services.
  • The existing network core storage needed to extend its expired warranty, and storage system reliability needed to be enhanced during the upgrade. 
  • The local backup system could not prevent regional disasters such as fire. Consequently, a new Disaster Recovery (DR) system needed to be designed with expandability and maintainability for service continuity. This was in accordance to the Guidelines for Information System DR Management as defined by the insurance industry that was released by CIRC in March, 2008.

Solution

Huawei proposed an active/standby DR solution in 2013 to resolve the challenges and requirements facing the customer. In September of 2013, Wang Hui, Chief of the IT Department of Bohai Insurance, asked to perform a Proof of Concept (PoC) test of the DR solution at the Huawei Chengdu Research Center to ensure the project would provide reliable operations and minimize implementation risks. 

Huawei responded quickly and created a test environment to simulate the production system for the intra-city DR solution within three days. The Huawei simulation not only technically satisfied the requirements of Bohai Insurance for service continuity but passed the PoC test in terms of its management and feasibility, even winning recognition from the customer. 

“Huawei’s efficiency and quick response impressed us a lot. The results of the PoC test showed that the Huawei active/standby DR solution could be customized for Bohai Insurance’s requirements as proven by Huawei’s careful system analysis of our needs.” said Wang Hui.

To ensure the project’s success, professional migration teams started the pre-migration process with network research, solution planning and design, as well as a comprehensive rollback plan. With this expertise, migration efficiency with minimum errors was ensured for a smooth transition to the new data center from the existing one.

For the actual implementation of the DR solution, Huawei’s OceanStor VIS6600T four-node cluster high-performance storage system was selected as the new data center’s platform, empowered with virtualization and mirroring functions previously unavailable on the IBM V7000 in the existing network. In order to mirror real-time core production data, the Huawei OceanStor 18500 high-end storage solution was also chosen to ensure high availability and avoid any single point of failure for any of the storage systems. If either the Huawei OceanStor 18500 or the IBM V7000 should fail, the other storage system automatically and transparently takes over, providing data read and write capabilities, all to assure continuous services and system availability. 

The OceanStor 18500 provides a remote replication function to replicate the production data to the DR storage in the old data center. If a disaster occurs in the new location, the DR solution provides remote data protection and switches over to the legacy servers as the DR hosts for application services. Then, DR services run on the previous equipment for querying and analyzing data, ensuring the highest service continuity as specified by the CIRC.

Huawei also provides a powerful DR management software tool with visual capabilities called the ReplicationDirector with display features to show the DR topology and alarms. This utility simplifies decision-making with graphical viewing and querying of the DR system status and replication process.

Benefits

In 2014, Huawei completed delivery of the Intra-city active/standby DR solution to Bohai Insurance. A carefully assembled team and migration tools ensured that all work was completed within 11 hours for successful installation and minimal impact to services. The entire migration process started with service system shutdown, hardware device migration, successful migration of 20 TB of data, and finally, the rollout of new services. The smooth migration enables Bohai Insurance to offer quality services that exceeded their expectations.

Bohai Insurance experiences many new benefits for their business with the DR solution. First, the new architecture now assures high availability of local services, and the DR core storage system prevents single-point failures with double the reliability and 100 percent storage reusability.

Additionally, the intra-city active/standby DR system provides the highest service continuity as specified by the CIRC, ensuring crucial recovery capabilities of the core service system in case of any disasters. 

The ReplicationDirector visual display tool simplifies evaluation for any situation. The 360° view turns the black box into a white one for quicker management decisions. The “one-key” service and recovery saves time, eliminates operator errors, and reduces manual operations. This decreases daily DR system maintenance and improves Recovery Time Objective (RTO) by over 30 percent.

Shen Xiaojun, CTO of Bohai Insurance states, “Many thanks to Huawei for their efforts in the successful implementation of our core system architecture upgrade. Our new DR solution assures the highest reliability for handling our current and future business services, making IT our core competency. Huawei DR and high-performance storage solutions now provide maximum operational efficiency and secure information protection for our data centers.”


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