Schleswig-Holstein Netz AG is a regional utility that operates electricity and gas pipelines in
around 1,000 municipalities in Schleswig-Holstein and northern Lower Saxony. As part of
the energy transition in Germany, the company also connected around 35,500 renewable
energy plants to its grids.
The electric grid operated by Schleswig-Holstein Netz AG spans 52,500 kilometers; its
natural gas grid spans almost 16,000 kilometers. These networks are monitored and
controlled from the state-of-the-art network control center in Rendsburg. A total of 1,250
specialists at 25 locations ensure reliable network operation around the clock every day.
Security of supply is also a top priority for the company’s PIT department. “As Process IT
(PIT) we are mainly concerned with IT-supported measurement, control and regulation
of network operation,” says Kai Lannte, system administrator at Schleswig-Holstein Netz.
“While our office workstations are managed by external service providers, we continue to
operate the basic services for our infrastructure, such as the network management center,
Schleswig-Holstein Netz AG also provides services for other regional network operators
within the E.ON Group in Germany. The company now provides its basic services for Avacon
Netz, Bayernwerk Netz and E.DIS Netz. This expansion entails greater responsibility: “In
the future, several hundred thousand kilometers of electricity, gas and communications
networks will depend on the availability of our basic services,” says Benjamin Bubbers, who
works as a system administrator for the Schleswig-Holstein network. “Any network failure
could have an impact on millions of households and companies throughout Germany.”
The utility company was therefore looking for a new data management platform that could
keep pace with the growing requirements and guarantee nationwide security of supply.
The Schleswig-Holstein Netz PIT team considered different potential solution options and
finally decided to use a hyperconverged infrastructure. Computing, storage, network and
virtualization resources were to be integrated in a system that was as easily scalable as
possible to ensure quicker response to new requirements. Three hyperconvergence products
were shortlisted, with Cisco HyperFlex finally winning the race. “The solution scored not only
for its excellent price/performance ratio, but also for its all flash architecture and very flexible
expansion options,” says Benjamin Bubbers. “For example, we can specifically upgrade RAM
or CPU performance to meet the performance requirements of specific applications. “
Veeam® Availability Suite™ was chosen as the data management solution for the
hyperconverged infrastructure right from the start. The PIT team had already had a very
positive experience with this solution while operating its VMware vSphere environment.
Tests also showed that the marriage of Veeam and Cisco HyperFlex would be highly
“A key factor was the native storage integration of Veeam and HyperFlex,” explains Kai
Lannte. “The Veeam solution can backup and restore virtual machines directly from the
HyperFlex snapshots. This way, the performance of the production systems is not affected
during backup – and we can significantly shorten the intervals between recovery points with
more frequent snapshots.”
In order to provide the basic services for the four grid operators with the optimal availability
they demand, Schleswig-Holstein Netz AG is setting up an infrastructure throughout
Germany. Two HyperFlex clusters with eight nodes each will be installed in each of the four
main data centers. Each cluster will be set up in two separate server rooms. In this “stretched
cluster” configuration, the data is mirrored synchronously between the two HyperFlex
systems. If one server room fails, the remaining system can take over seamlessly.
Even in the event that a location fails completely, there are precautions in place. With the
Veeam solution, there is constant replication between the different data centers. “If one
location is no longer accessible, we can restart the affected applications at another location
in the shortest possible time,” reports Benjamin Bubbers. “The same virtual machine that
has previously been running in Bavaria, for example, is then running with the same network
address in Schleswig-Holstein. This enables us to meet demanding recovery targets of less
than two hours for critical applications.”
The Veeam solution optimizes data transfer over the WAN and offers inline deduplication,
data compression, WAN acceleration and more. In addition, Schleswig-Holstein Netz AG
can use Veeam to encrypt replication traffic and provide throttling to control bandwidth
utilization. “We benefit enormously from these possibilities in everyday life and can also
secure data volumes of several terabytes over the WAN with high performance,” says Kai
Hence Veeam is today a key component for the reliable business operation of the company.
The PIT department not only ensures maximum availability of virtual resources, but also of
physical servers such as domain controllers and SQL databases. The additional backup of data
on external storage systems and tape is also controlled via the Veeam Availability Suite.
When restoring data and applications, Schleswig-Holstein Netz can draw on a multitude
of different options. With the Instant VM Recovery® technology from Veeam, for example,
failed virtual machines can be restarted directly from the backup and are available again
within minutes. Granular recovery of application objects is also very easy. The company uses
this option for Active Directory and SQL Server, among others. “In many cases, the first level
support can already restore the required objects,” says Kai Lannte. “This saves us time for
The new infrastructure also helps the grid operator comply with their statutory obligations as an
operator of critical infrastructure (KRITIS). Veeam’s SureBackup® function automatically checks
the recoverability of virtual machines. “This information makes it easier for us to prove that we
have data protection and risk prevention under control,” says Benjamin Bubbers.
Veeam ONE also plays an important role in this context. The solution continuously monitors the
performance and availability of the virtual machines and creates regular backup reports. At the
same time, Veeam ONE provides a utility company with valuable infrastructure utilization data.
“This in turn helps us to size the HyperFlex systems and plan future capacity,” concludes Kai
Lannte. “The Cisco and Veeam solutions simply work very well together at all levels. This gives
us exactly the combination of maximum availability and efficiency that we need for secure and
economical network operation”.
- Reliable network operation through fail-safe process IT (PIT)
Thanks to Cisco and Veeam, Schleswig-Holstein Netz AG takes the availability of basic
applications for network operation to a new level. Recovery time objectives (RTOs)
and recovery point objectives (RPOs) are significantly shortened. External replication
between different locations enables the company to restart critical applications
immediately, even in the event of a disaster.
- Flexible scalability as requirements grow
Schleswig-Holstein Netz AG provides basic services for several other network
operators throughout Germany. As requirements grow, Cisco’s hyperconverged
infrastructure can be expanded very quickly and easily. Veeam also provides valuable
information on system utilization, thus enabling proactive capacity planning.
- Higher efficiency through better resource utilization
The combination of HyperFlex systems with the Veeam Availability Suite improves
PIT efficiency in many areas. Integrated deduplication and compression capabilities,
for example, minimize storage requirements and bandwidth usage when backing up
data over the WAN.