Teachers Credit Union Eliminates Outages, Reduces Backup Windows and Meets Capacity Requirements
Teachers Credit Union was founded in 1966 when a small team of like-minded individuals wanted to improve the finance options available to teachers and their families. Initially known as the Hornsby Teachers Association Credit Union, the organisation grew swiftly, becoming the NSW Teachers Association Credit Union and rapidly adding and developing new services. Forty-five years later, the original membership of 29 has expanded to more than 155,000 and the organisation now has 400 employees and offices in Western Australia, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
In 2010, the credit union dropped the ‘NSW’ and became Teachers Credit Union to reflect its national status. It offers transaction and savings accounts, loans, credit cards, insurance, wealth management, financial planning and banking products tailored for customers buying a car, going on holiday, or studying.
From initial deposits totalling AUD$644, Teachers Credit Union has grown its assets to reach more than AUD$3 billion. For the past decade, the credit union has grown at a rate of 15 per cent per annum.
“That year-on-year growth is significant and we have to manage that,” said Colin Thomas, Chief Information Officer, Teachers Credit Union. “As a business, we need to meet the market expectation that we will provide new products and services, while internally we need to make better use of data more often. Plus, we are facing more stringent regulations surrounding compliance and data retention and face growing business demand for improved reporting and business intelligence systems.”
Teachers Credit Union has five branches and two offices that perform back-end functions. The company’s primary data centre is housed in its head office in Sydney, while a secondary, identical data centre is housed in a Sydney branch.
This second site acts as the company’s disaster recovery centre and houses similar infrastructure to the production facility. The production infrastructure supports Teachers Credit Union’s critical business applications, such as its core banking system, and sensitive information such as customer details.
To store and manage this information, Teachers Credit Union had been using Oracle Sun storage, while tape was used for backup and archiving. However, having been deployed in
2006, the infrastructure was reaching end of life. It no longer provided the credit union with peace of mind that its data was being efficiently stored or backed up.
“The main driving force for change was that we were simply running out of space,” said Thomas. “Our current growth, coupled with the new products and services, meant we no longer had the storage and backup facilities we needed.”
Implementing a New Data Storage System
Faced with insufficient storage and tape capacity, unreliable tape libraries and limited speed and scalability, Teachers Credit Union embarked on a project to replace its entire data storage infrastructure and improve its disaster recovery capabilities. The organisation undertook extensive research to ensure it chose a product which provided the greatest capacity and scalability.
David Goska, IT Server Administrator, Teachers Credit Union, carried out a five-year projection on the storage required to sustain the predicted rate of business growth, and assessed extra requirements that had not previously been considered. He calculated the credit union would need 300TB in total – 150TB at each of its production and disaster recovery sites.
The organisation realised that as well as increased storage capacity, it needed deduplication and thin provisioning capabilities. As Oracle Sun storage did not have thin provisioning technology, extending the existing storage system was not an option. Teachers Credit Union then engaged EMC partner United Business Solutions to help it assess data storage and information management providers.
In February 2010, Teachers Credit Union decided to deploy a new infrastructure in its production data centre based on EMC technologies, with a duplicate version running at its secondary site.
“Data Domain has allowed us reduce 132.4TB of raw data down to 8.1TB of actual data and given us faster, simpler and more reliable backup capabilities. We now have peace of mind our critical business data is protected and we do not experience unnecessary outages.”
DAVID GOSKA IT SERVER ADMINISTRATOR, TEACHERS CREDIT UNION
This infrastructure comprises an EMC Data Domain DD660 deduplication storage system, an EMC RecoverPoint data protection and remote replication device, an EMC Celerra NS-120 network-attached storage device and an EMC CLARiiON CX4-120 networked storage system with EMC Connectrix-branded Brocade switches.
Additionally, the organisation is planning on moving its data centre to a colocation facility, so needed a storage system with a compressed footprint. The Data Domain storage system offers a considerably smaller physical footprint and reduced rack space requirements, which would enable the company to operate within the power and environmental constraints of a co-location data centre.
Teachers Credit Union also deployed EMC RecoverPoint to take advantage of its continuous replication with the ability to recover to any point in time, rather than back to a periodically updated ‘snapshot’ of the IT environment.
Reduced Data Storage
Each Data Domain DD660 has 13.2TB of raw data storage capacity, giving Teachers Credit Union 26.4TB of available raw capacity. “The 16.3 times compression factor – equating to a 93.9 per cent reduction in data due to deduplication and compression – means we effectively have capacity of about 200TB on each Data Domain device,” said Thomas. “Without deduplication, we would have to purchase approximately 400TB of storage rather than 26TB.”
The organisation has reduced 132.4TB of raw data to 8.1TB of deduplicated data across both devices. “These numbers are fantastic,” said Thomas. “It means we’re barely scratching the surface of storage availability. We’ve still got plenty of capacity available on each device and I’ve already got three or four months worth of backups retained from across the whole organisation.” Teachers Credit Union has the ability to retain about 140TB more in backup data at each site, or 280TB across both sites.
The deduplication functionality means daily backups only comprise 400GB of data. This enables the organisation to complete backups faster and has made the overall management of backups easier by removing the need for tape.
“Our previous tape library was unreliable,” said Goska. “We had 80 tapes but we would consistently have to buy new ones and swap them round so we could shelve old ones until their data had expired and we could recycle them.”
“Sometimes we would run out of free tapes completely,” added Thomas. “That still gives me the shivers. Now it’s refreshing to be able to go home at night and have confidence in the system, knowing the backups are going to work.”
“We can now transfer backups to a second location without moving tapes because the Data Domain replication process is so simple,” said Goska. “Every 15 minutes the system checks for changes and then it fully replicates every hour.”
The Data Domain replication process works in both directions, so all the information in one data centre is replicated to the other. This enables the reliable, seamless backup of critical processes and also protects data during the development and testing of new products.
With EMC RecoverPoint providing continuous replication and enabling point in time recovery, Teachers Credit Union now has greater flexibility.
“Our legacy solution was based on snapshot replication, which meant the infrastructure supporting our core banking system had been a bit rigid,” said Thomas. “Having the flexibility to pick a point in time provides us with a healthy recovery point. It gives our IT team extra confidence when they recover a database in a mirror situation, or if a disaster occurs that requires a failover or recovery.”
No More Outages
Teachers Credit Union’s legacy storage system would often experience outages, especially during product upgrade processes, which could send its business-critical core banking system offline. Since deploying the new EMC-based infrastructure, the credit union has had no system outages, allowing it to provide customers with highly available services.
“One of the big things for us was high availability, which included no outages for scheduled maintenance,” said Goska. “Business dynamics are changing and we can’t continue to interrupt our customer service. But we have just completed our first upgrade using the EMC storage and it was seamless.”
The credit union has also implemented VMware vSphere as a virtualisation platform for its virtual servers. Despite expecting to experience server outages during this period, the system stayed online for the entire migration of around 100 servers.
“The EMC solution has lifted our game dramatically,” Thomas said. “Our current capabilities with Data Domain are incomparable to the previous technology. Five years ago I couldn’t have imagined what we can do now. The things EMC have allowed us to do are just fantastic.”