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Keeping the Lights On

September 13, 2007


Symantec solutions help not-for-profit power agency cut staff time, increase utilization, and save $500,000

Getting more from the data centers

New York Independent Systems Operators, or NYISO (pronounced NICE-oh), manages the $12 billion wholesale energy market for the entire state of New York. The state's 20 million residents, as well as New York City's financial and business centers, depend on NYISO to keep the lights on—and to keep that power affordable. With so much riding on its system, any data center interruption could be deeply disruptive, so data protection and disaster recovery are high among NYISO's priorities. Increasingly, however, so is efficiency. As demands on its systems grew, the company challenged its IT team to do more with the resources it had, increase utilization from 10% to 50%, and consolidate from five data centers to two.

From a month to a couple of hours

NYISO's IT team members knew that virtualization would be the key to meeting their current challenges. They had already seen the benefits of virtualization in 2003, when they installed Veritas Storage Foundation with NetBackup. At the time, NYISO needed to cope with rapidly expanding storage, explains Mike DeSocio, NYISO's Supervisor of Infrastructure Support. Storage Foundation helped by dramatically reducing both staff time and downtime for storage tasks. "Making storage changes used to require several hours of downtime, and a man-month of planning, coordination, and approval, because of the impact that downtime has on our market participants," DeSocio says. "With Storage Foundation we can make allocation changes on the fly, and our administrative preparation beforehand is just a couple of hours."

Innovative architecture

To meet the new challenge, NYISO's IT staff teamed with Rochester, New York-based ServerWare Corporation, a Symantec Gold Business Partner, to create a disaster recovery architecture that could reduce complexity and administration time while increasing availability and utilization. The answer was to use the Solaris 10 Containers feature on NYISO's four Sun Fire V890 servers, a pair of which reside in each of the company's two data centers. Containers allow multiple applications to run simultaneously on the same server, using partitions to keep the applications separate. Veritas Cluster Server allows IT staff to control clusters and Containers in both NYISO data centers from a single console, explains Robert Ball, Director of Services and Solutions for ServerWare. "Instead of failing over an entire physical server, we can failover the Containers within it. They can set performance thresholds, and if they need more CPU resources, they can easily move an application to a new system."

Saving $500,000

One big benefit is that the disaster recovery data center now also runs testing and development during idle times. "We had hot and cold data centers before; now we're running a hot-hot scenario," DeSocio says. "If we need to initiate a production failover, Cluster Server determines machine workload, and if the destination machine doesn't have enough capacity, Cluster Server can shut down the non-essential database." That has helped NYISO's IT team meet its challenge to increase utilization from a former 10% (largely because of stand-alone testing and development) to 35% today. DeSocio anticipates 60% utilization when the project reaches completion. "That's a 50 percentage point increase from where we started." That increased utilization translated into a major cost avoidance. "The increased utilization has enabled us to cancel plans for adding a new database on the AIX platform, saving us $500,000," DeSocio says.

Up next: market and accounting systems

After its disaster recovery successes, NYISO is looking to create a similar solution for its IBM AIX logical partition (LPAR) environment, where it hosts market information and accounting systems. "We'll end up with more of a traditional cluster environment there," DeSocio says. "We won't get as good a management benefit as we do with Solaris 10 Containers. But we should still see enhanced flexibility and reduced administration." For more on how Symantec helps NYISO keep the power on—and affordable—read the customer success story.

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