When business decisions confronted Axa Tech with the daunting task of relocating 300 servers from Japan to Melbourne it considered all its options, including the use of cargo ships.
But rather than drown in the relocation of so much hardware as part of a year-long data consolidation project, the financial services firm turned to a mix of server virtualization and WAN acceleration.
The goal for parent company Axa Life Japan was to consolidate three data centres into one, but steep real estate costs meant the 300 servers had to find a more cost-effective home.
The data centres were spread across various sites in Tokyo and migrating the data to Melbourne has taken 10 months.
The initial plan was to migrate the Dell, HP, IBM and Sun Solaris servers from the various sites in Japan.
At the Melbourne site there is a mixture of Wintel, Sun Solaris and Linux boxes and at the end of the project some virtual servers in Japan stayed virtualized. Some physical servers in Japan became virtualized in Melbourne.
The company used PowerConvert from PlateSpin to analyse which applications could work over a latent link and eliminate which applications could and could not be hosted on a latent link. Data was migrated onto two existing VMware ESX 2.5 servers in Melbourne.
Neil Brindley, senior Windows system engineer with AXA Tech Asia Pacific, said the project began as a "conceptualized" idea.
Brindley said there were even issues trying to find like-for-like hardware in Melbourne before they decided on virtualizing the entire process.
"Because we knew we had to go to new hardware, we tried to source like for like and more or less came to a dead end; we knew we had to bring servers across and the only way to do that was virtualize the systems first.
"Once virtualized, for all systems running Windows 2000 Server or Server 2003, a combination of custom scripts and Sysprep was used to migrate the data to the new hardware."
"The method was drawn up but we had to convince AXA Life Japan, and myself at the same time that it would work; being unproven we did a few dry runs with differing degrees of failure and successs."
The data was piped across the AXA Life 45Mb VPN WAN link after being tweaked with A WAN accelerator tool from Juniper enabling FTP throughput of between 10-12MBps - over one long weekend when around 1.4Tb was transferred. At times the FTP acceleration reached speeds of 20GB an hour.
Less than 100 servers are still located in Shirokane, Japan. The system is now completely live.
Brindley said the ability to migrate remotely over the WAN without needing to be in physical contact with source and target servers saved months of work.