The Business Challenge
CBRE Group, Inc. acquired several companies to enhance its service offerings and extend its reach globally, resulting in more customers, employees and data. Between 2006 and 2014, revenue quadrupled, the number of employees tripled and data grew by at least 10 times. CBRE Group affiliates, including CBRE Asia Pacific, consolidated and modernized their data centers to create agile IT environments that provide high availability for business growth and continuity. CBRE Group and its affiliates are always on.
CBRE Asia Pacific, which comprises several time zones, has two modern data centers (Hong Kong and Sydney) that are 95% virtualized on VMware vSphere with 500 virtual machines (VMs). As offices in New Zealand close for the day, offices in India open. Employees require 24x7x365 access to virtualized applications and data, particularly email and property data. If CBRE Asia Pacific fails to remain always on, employees can’t access electronic property data to process residential mortgage evaluations for banking partners within 24 hours. In a worst-case scenario, CBRE Asia Pacific would break a service level agreement (SLA) and risk losing a bank’s business.
Being always on isn’t always easy. Before virtualization, CBRE Asia Pacific backed up physical servers to tape; recovery could take hours or days. Recovery time and recovery point objectives (RTOs and RPOs) weren’t set because the focus was on growth. Shortly after virtualization, CBRE Asia Pacific attempted to back up VMs with the same tool it used to back up physical servers, but the legacy tool was slow and inefficient.
“Backup with the legacy tool was uncertain, so we worried about failed backups,” said Darren Warner, Regional Director for Infrastructure and Operations, CBRE Asia Pacific. “Our IT team isn’t large, and we don’t have time to troubleshoot failed backups.”
Warner said he and his colleagues knew almost immediately that the legacy backup tool wouldn’t be able to back up and replicate VMs efficiently across their wide-area network (WAN).
“Our WAN has some latency because of the physical distance between Hong Kong and Sydney,” he explained. “We needed a solution that could optimize WAN traffic for fast, frequent backup as we moved to disk-based backup. We needed a solution that actually worked—something to set and forget.”
The Veeam Solution
CBRE Asia Pacific deployed Veeam® Backup & Replication™ for high availability and business continuity.
“We wouldn’t have business continuity without Veeam,” Warner said. “Veeam has exceeded our expectations by how effective it is.”
CBRE Asia Pacific uses Veeam to back up VMs locally in the Hong Kong and Sydney data centers, to back up VMs between them for redundancy and to replicate VMs between them for disaster recovery (DR). Veeam replication also helped CBRE Asia Pacific migrate 500 VMs to a new infrastructure.
“Two different storage systems were involved during the migration with no direct network connectivity between them,” Warner said. “Storage migration across the network would have been cumbersome because we would have had to establish network connectivity. Storage migration would have been lengthy too—20 TB of storage would have taken an entire weekend to migrate. With Veeam, replicating that same workload took less than one hour because WAN acceleration is built into Veeam, which we absolutely love. Veeam has better WAN acceleration than our WAN acceleration appliance. That’s why we set up hardware bypasses to let Veeam handle WAN acceleration.”
Veeam is storage agnostic, so it doesn’t matter what storage CBRE Asia Pacific uses today or in the future, or what storage newly acquired companies bring with them. Veeam also has built-in compression and deduplication. Combining those features with Veeam’s Built-in WAN Acceleration results in fast, frequent VM backup and RPOs starting at 15 minutes.
Warner said Veeam Backup & Replication enables tight RTOs too, also starting at 15 minutes. When a development release went through to production and obstructed drivers that were part of a leasing application, CBRE Asia Pacific used Veeam’s Instant VM Recovery® to restart the failed VM from a regular backup in minutes and recovered the application from a point in time before the release went through.
Veeam has also recovered the affiliate’s mortgage evaluation application. CBRE Asia Pacific inherited the application when it acquired the company that created it. The application needed to scale from 30 users to 500+ users and required converting ASP pages to ASP.net, which resulted in the occasional lost page and its versions.
Warner said most Veeam recoveries are performed on backend applications, but the IT team occasionally recovers items for employees in Microsoft SharePoint. Team members know recovery is always possible—items, files and VMs— because they verify the recoverability of backups and replicas with SureBackup® and SureReplica. Veeam helps eliminate the risk of data loss in one additional way.
“We set up Virtual Labs to test software updates before they go into production,” Warner said. “If an update makes it through testing but causes a problem in production, we pull it back into a Virtual Lab to troubleshoot before putting it back into production.”
CBRE Asia Pacific uses another Veeam solution in its vSphere infrastructure: Veeam Management Pack™ (MP) for monitoring, reporting and capacity planning. Before Veeam MP, the IT team had limited monitoring capabilities and no reporting or capacity planning capabilities.
“Our biggest challenge was tying the hardware and virtualization layers together,” Warner said. “We had alerts coming in from several places but no way to put them together for monitoring and reporting. We had to dig through alerts to resolve issues, but the bigger risk was missing issues.”
Warner said these challenges made it difficult to meet SLAs.
“We had issues such as VMs not performing and high memory utilization. Being able to proactively see the issues was difficult, resulting in degradation of services because we weren’t alerted in a timely manner. With Veeam MP, we can see a potential problem about to exert itself before it impacts our users. For example, we have an application that sends a report to property owners about the financial status of their portfolios. Those reports run at the same time each month, so there’s a massive spike in the web server, database server and so on. With Veeam MP, we know what resources to allocate and how to fine-tune the database server to avoid spikes.”
Veeam MP’s capacity planning reports help CBRE Asia Pacific plan for storage requirements and growth in the virtual environment. Capacity planning reports also help the affiliate avoid outages by providing predictions when CPU memory will run low. Features that provide complete visibility, such as dashboards, help ensure CBRE Asia Pacific can meet SLA-mandated targets.
“We gave employees who run the property owner reports access to a dashboard that shows compute, storage and memory—what’s utilized and what’s available. It gives them peace of mind,” Warner said.
Provides complete visibility and assurance that business is always on
Warner said Veeam MP lets CBRE Asia Pacific view its physical and virtual environments through a single pane of glass, which allows the IT team to see and resolve issues before they impact the business.
“Veeam Backup & Replication fits along side Veeam MP to keep us always on,” he explained. “We have a level of comfort that if a VM fails, we have a backup and a replica we can easily restore or fail over to for business continuity. If we don’t stay always on, our reputation will suffer.”
Reduces the risk of data loss and verifies protection
Veeam helps CBRE Asia Pacific avoid data loss with backup, replication and Built-in WAN Acceleration. Veeam helps the affiliate verify the recoverability of backups and replicas with SureBackup and SureReplica.
“The most important thing about Veeam is that it just works,” Warner said. “We’re confident our data is there and we can bring it back. We don’t worry about Veeam.”
Offers a competitive advantage in the marketplace
“If we stay always on, we meet SLAs when our competitors might not,” Warner said. “If our competitors aren’t on, they’re back to pencil and paper, and it’s tough to turn around a mortgage evaluation in a day without access to electronic data. In our marketplace, a company’s reputation is based on being always available.”