Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Therefore, organizations around the world are looking for ways to transform the global energy system and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
One of the pioneers in this area is Greenchoice, a Netherlands-based renewable energy company. Its mission is to provide 100% green energy for a cleaner world by sourcing energy generated from the sun, wind and biomass. Since 2016, all this energy is exclusively produced in the Netherlands. The company also supplies natural gas to its customers and invests in reforestation projects around the world to compensate for CO2 emissions from gas consumption. In addition to delivering renewable energy, Greenchoice offers its customers the opportunity to generate their own energy by investing in ownership of solar panels and windmills, along with helping customers create energy cooperatives.
The demand for sustainable energy has increased considerably, especially in recent years. Therefore, Greenchoice now supplies more than 550,000 households, companies and public institutions in the Netherlands. “We also see enormous growth in our IT,” said Carlo Kleinloog, Network System Engineer at Greenchoice. “The volume of data is increasing by around 50% every year and the numerous applications for our customers and employees require ever more performance and higher Availability.”
As an energy supplier, Greenchoice cannot compromise on uptime. The company pursues an “always on” strategy and must ensure that IT solutions are working reliably around the clock. For example, without its smart metering system Greenchoice would not be able to accurately measure and bill its customers for their electricity consumption. The company’s energy traders need access to real-time market information to buy sustainable energy for customers at the best price. Greenchoice’s support teams also must be able to communicate with customers around the clock so that technical issues can be solved as quickly as possible.
However, a big challenge for the IT department was that the existing solution for backup and restore of its IT systems was error-prone and complex to operate. “The recovery of individual files or failed servers often took hours. If the backup had not run correctly, we had to rebuild entire systems from scratch,” said Kleinloog.
As the IT infrastructure was migrated to two georedundant data centers, Greenchoice was looking for a new, more reliable data management solution. Greenchoice wanted to maximize the Availability of its business applications and minimize ongoing backup and recovery efforts. The solution should also support hybrid cloud scenarios and be able to back up Office 365 data from the Microsoft cloud to the on-premises infrastructure.
After an extensive product test, Greenchoice decided to manage and protect its data with Veeam® Availability Suite™. “We were impressed by the capabilities of the solution right from the start,” said Kleinloog. “In addition to the ease of use, our team was particularly enthusiastic about the fast recovery of IT resources. In our business, every minute counts — for example, when it comes to energy trading. Even a short outage can have enormous consequences for us since electricity prices are so volatile today. With Veeam, we could restore a failed trading system from the backup within minutes.”
Another important factor in the decision was the seamless integration with ExaGrid’s Intelligent Hyperconverged Storage technology. The company implemented the Veeam solution together with two ExaGrid appliances at the separate data center sites. Cross-replication between the two sites allows for full redundancy. With this solution, Greenchoice can very efficiently back up its entire VMware vSphere infrastructure with around 200 virtual machines and a total data volume of 300 TB.
Both Veeam and ExaGrid systems are designed from the ground up to protect virtualized environments and provide deduplication as backups are taken. The combination of ExaGrid’s and Veeam’s deduplication technology achieved a compression rate of approximately 4:1, reducing storage requirements by 75%. “The technologies from Veeam and ExaGrid complement each other perfectly,” confirmed Kleinloog. “Backups run five to six times faster than before, and the administration, reporting and monitoring tasks are now largely automated.” Greenchoice estimates that the IT department saves at least 20 hours per week that were previously required for the management of backup and recovery.
The Veeam solution also makes it easier for Greenchoice to cope with rapid business growth. Thanks to ExaGrid’s scale-out architecture, it is now possible to add additional appliances to the virtual resource pool at any time via plug-and-play.
“From a business perspective, the most important thing about the Veeam solution is that our customers can really rely on the Availability of our data and services,” states Kleinloog. “Sensitive data, such as the exact energy consumption figures of our customers, are fully protected against loss. If a backup problem should occur, we receive an automatic notification and can react immediately.”
The joint solution also helps Greenchoice meet compliance requirements as an energy provider. Once a year, an external audit reviews the risk prevention and data loss protection measures. With Veeam Availability Suite and ExaGrid, the IT department can document that the required disaster recovery tests have been performed and prove that the backups were successful for any given point in time. Today, critical databases and file servers are backed up every five minutes — “that’s only possible since the switch to Veeam and ExaGrid,” said Kleinloog.
Based on the positive experience with the solution, Greenchoice is already planning the next step. The company decided to use Veeam Backup for Microsoft Office 365 in the future. The company’s employees are currently switching to Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business and will therefore store a lot of data in the Microsoft cloud in the future. “With Veeam, we can also back up this data in our data center and store it for as long as our business requires,” concludes Kleinloog. “That’s how we achieve a seamless transition to the cloud — without compromising data Availability.”
Greenchoice is the largest Dutch energy provider that exclusively provides green, sustainable energy. 100% of the electricity is generated from renewable resources such as wind, solar and biomass energy in the Netherlands. Founded in 2001 in Rotterdam as an innovative start-up, Greenchoice has grown into a large organization supplying electricity and natural gas (of which the CO2 emissions are compensated by the protection of forests) to over 550,000 customers. The company has more than 350 employees and has been awarded several times as the most sustainable brand in the Dutch energy industry.
Greenchoice’s very successful business development is accompanied by rapid data growth and ever-increasing IT requirements. The existing data management solution was no longer able to keep pace with the fast-growing business. Therefore, Greenchoice was looking for a more scalable and manageable solution that would also support hybrid cloud scenarios.