The domino effect

An ERP implementation forces the fully-virtualised Argas to re-think backup and recovery

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The domino effect Argas’ infrastructure is 100% virtualised on Microsoft Hyper-V.
By  Tom Paye Published  June 24, 2014

The Arabian Geophysical and Surveying Co. (Argas) was created in 1966 to serve oil and gas companies in Saudi Arabia. The acquisition of seismic data has been core to Argas’s business over the past 48 years, though it has, in recent years, embraced technology to offer a more diverse range of services to its customers.

Since 2007, Argas has offered 3D marine surveys, 3D transition zone surveys, and micro-seismic monitoring surveys, among other things. And in 2008, the company opened a technology centre in Al Khobar to provide seismic imaging, reservoir and training services.

Argas has applied the same principle of harnessing cutting-edge technologies to its IT department, too. In 2009, Argas became the first company in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia to virtualise its entire IT infrastructure on Microsoft Hyper-V. The infrastructure now comprises 55 virtual machines, which run every critical application. With this implementation, the company made a splash on the regional IT scene thanks to it being able to keep the number of physical servers it runs down to the bare minimum.

In 2011, Argas embarked on a new project — a wide-ranging ERP implementation with SAP. However, to see this project completed successfully, Argas would have to ask itself some serious questions about the infrastructure it was working with.

Business challenge
To be fair, the issue that stood in the way of a successful ERP project was only a small part of the infrastructure — the backup and recovery solution that protected the company’s data. When it first virtualised everything, Argas simply took on a bundled backup suite that came with the Microsoft Hyper-V solution.

“At the beginning, we used to take virtual machine backups, but we used to have a downtime. We’d just shut it down, make a copy of it and then bring them up. We used a solution from Microsoft in order to do the backups. It was bundled in with our volume licence,” explains Ameer Hussain, IT manager at Argas.

Simply put, Argas had been backing up VMs to disk manually. The IT team would shut down the servers, make a binary copy of the files, transfer the copy to tape and move the tapes offsite. It was so time-consuming that each VM could only be backed up on a quarterly basis, and backups were so large that they consumed an enormous amount of storage space. What’s more, shutting down the servers severely disrupted IT services.

When it began planning for its big ERP implementation, Argas realised that things needed to change. The situation was already complicated by the fact that the company had elected to run the ERP solution completely on the virtualised environment. This would apply even to the production aspect of the solution, which Hussain says is usually kept on a physical server. But while SAP was confident that the solution could be run on a totally virtualised infrastructure, the backup and replication system that Argas was using needed to be updated. What’s more, it had to be updated before the SAP system could be properly implemented, meaning that Argas was working with a very short timeframe.

“The introduction of the new ERP made things very complicated, our landscape basically grew threefold and we had a lot of virtual machines to deal with. It brought more challenges in terms of backups because we had a lot of VMs to deal with and we could not have downtime. Before we went live, there was a requirement to have the backups done quickly and without downtime,” says Hussain.

Why Veeam?
Having upgraded to Microsoft Windows Server 2012 — which was also done to support the implementation of the ERP solution — Argas then set its sights on the backup and recovery solution. The key requirements were speed and reliability, but Argas also needed built-in deduplication and compression to reduce the size of its backups.

Argas began evaluating a number of solutions, and even went ahead with purchasing one particular solution, which Hussain leaves unnamed. “It was a total failure. It did not meet our backup cycle, our backup window, and the storage requirement was very high,” he laments.

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