Mobility has a major impact on the quality of life of the city’s inhabitants and on the economy of the metropolis itself. In Milan, millions of people travel every day to work or to school, to the center or the suburbs, crisscrossing the vast area of the metropolitan city in all directions and at all hours of the day and night. Women and men who, because they can count on reliable, punctual public transport, are able to leave their cars and motorbikes at home and thus spare their fellow citizens the levels of congestion and pollution those vehicles would generate, with a decisive impact on traffic and the environment, and consequently on livability.
In this scenario, data availability plays a decisive role for ATM, which operates one of the most complex public transport systems in Europe. The information that regulates activity planning, resource and infrastructure maintenance and billing services for a system active 24 hours a day cannot be subject to interruptions or errors. The organization of both underground and surface transport would run haywire with negative impact on the customers and the whole territory.
“Not only is ATM constantly evolving,” said Renato Stucchi, Chief Technology Officer. “For years now, users have been able to purchase travel tickets using an app and we recently introduced the use of contactless cards to access the transport systems.” The payment system for parking, bike sharing and entry to Area C (the restricted traffic area in the city center) and to Area B (the biggest restricted traffic area in Italy, whose boundary is defined by thousands of camera-monitored entry points, which ATM manages on behalf of the Milan Council, also involves exchanging data with thirdparty environments integrated into ATM’s systems. An example? “Field operators check whether vehicles have valid parking tickets using devices that interface with our systems,” Stucchi continued. “If the data is not available, payments can’t be verified and fines can’t be issued, which entails a significant financial loss for the City Council, added to a potential poor service provided to citizens.
Millions of transactions and information to memorize, process, transmit and store over time that must be adequately protected in order to be used. That is why ATM’s technology choices make it such an innovative organization. The data center infrastructure on which every process is based comprises a primary site located at the central office and a remote business continuity site: an almost completely virtualized environment based on VMware and composed of around 600 virtual machines, in which approximately 150 TB of data resides. A vital asset, which requires an advanced and intelligent management platform to keep the organization’s complex operations up and running. In a word, Veeam.
The wide adoption in ATM’s data centers of virtualized environments meant that a solution had to be found to guatantee data availability. An innovative vision able to guarantee ATM operational continuity 24/7 and thus maintain the livability standards that the inhabitants of Milan expect from their public transport company.
The use of Veeam Availability Suite is fully in line with ATM’s earliest adoptions of Veeam solutions, a technology the transport company recognized as pioneering back in the days of the first virtualized environments. “We tried other tools but none of them satisfied us the way Veeam Availability Suite does,” added Paolo Tunesi, ATM’s Head of Systems Management and Development. “It’s a platform that doesn’t require agent installation, and it’s fast and easy to manage, which has allowed us to focus on the data backup and recovery processes that are crucial for the availability of our systems.”
In companies that are increasingly data-centric, data availability is a factor that is often taken for granted. The reliability with which ATM data can be recovered in the event of problems has impressed operations personnel. “It was apparent in the case of a failed security update that compromised the transmission protocols for some payments,” continued Tunesi. “Thanks to Veeam, we were able to quickly restore a cluster of application servers and get the services back up and running correctly, which enabled us to avoid negative consequences for our business and allowed us to quickly restore the service, to save several working days and to avoid a considerable economic loss.
Complex organizations like ATM that are undergoing digital transformation constantly face the challenge of reconciling innovation and business continuity, of integrating next gen technologies while keeping the whole system running. For an organization which has to guarantee that millions of passengers can travel to work or to school every day, arrive at their destinations and return home on time, failure to achieve that balance is simply not an option. Here Veeam fulfilled all expectations. “We are responsible for guaranteeing the functioning of transport and connections in a metropolis like Milan,” confirmed Stucchi, “so it’s essential that we invest in effective solutions.” In IT, anything that represents an opportunity has to be balanced against maintaining what is already in operation, taking into account the available workforce. “We have to mediate between change and keeping everything that guarantees operability fully functioning. In that regard, the introduction of Veeam had a positive impact on our organization.”
And at ATM, the future is already part of the present. Data centrality and availability are the cornerstones of its current strategic and industrial plan: every resource saved or recouped thanks to digital transformation will be reinvested in environmental sustainability, with projects that range from upgrading the lines to totally replacing all surface vehicles with electric buses. “We have a staggering amount of data available which we’ll be able to exploit, directly and indirectly, to continue to improve our services and those of third parties,” concluded Stucchi. “Which is why data availability and the use of Veeam will be even more decisive in the future.”
ATM is the acronym of Azienda Trasporti Milanesi, the company that has managed public transport in the Lombard capital and 46 outlying municipalities since 1931. Owned by the Milan City Council, ATM serves an area with a population of approximately 2.5 million with an intermodal system composed of metro lines, buses, trams and trolley buses. ATM also manages 22 related car parks and the BikeMi bike sharing service, which involves supervising the parking areas and all the payment systems. This diversification of services is part of ATM’s continual expansion of activities in both the transport and the commerce and leisure sectors. The company’s commitment to designing and managing technologically advanced services and systems that make sustainable mobility possible is clearly apparent.
Data availability is the foundation for ATM’s daily operations planning and execution: from ticket sales services, to car parking and bike sharing service management and payment. The highest level of availability is mandatory to guarantee services and contribute to making the environment more sustainable, improving the quality of life for Milan’s citizens.