Haven Power is an energy company based in Ipswich, launched in 2006 specifically to serve the electricity needs of small to medium sized business customers and provide an alternative to the large multinational power suppliers. Haven has grown significantly. Now employing more than 350 staff and with a turnover in excess of £750 million, the business has gone from strength to strength.
Haven’s focus on customer service has fuelled a rapid level of growth since its launch in 2006. For its first five years, the company ran on a hybrid infrastructure that was made up of a mixture of onsite and offsite servers. Haven’s systems were not as flexible as it would have liked, with limited support for technology testing and development. The company lacked a complete business continuity and disaster recovery (DR) plan, and needed a technology infrastructure that could both keep up with demand and help drive further growth.
Haven had three options: getting a DR solution through the data center of its parent company, Drax Group; going through a third-party re-location disaster recovery service; or moving to the cloud.
After thorough evaluation, Haven enlisted Amazon Web Services (AWS) Premiere Consulting Partner Smart421 for advice, and decided to use AWS to build its business continuity and DR solution. “We sent the tenders out in January and February, and by April, we had started moving our disaster recovery to the cloud,” says Paul Armstrong, Haven Power Business Systems Manager. “Having a robust DR plan in place was important to us as a company, and we needed to do it quickly and as cost-effectively as possible. The natural choice for us was to leverage AWS durable and secure global infrastructure for a comprehensive disaster recovery environment.”
Haven and Smart421 built a replica its infrastructure and launched it in the AWS Cloud. For this, Haven Power has Oracle and SQL Server databases, Active Directory, Microsoft Exchange, Windows file shares and other Amazon Machine Images hosted in an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) in three Availability Zones in the EU (Ireland) Region in Dublin, ready to go at a moment’s notice should disaster strike. “Having replicas of its production environment offsite gives us the confidence that should a natural disaster strike, our data will remain safe,” Armstrong says. In addition to this, the company also uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) as an intermediate store. Amazon Glacier is used for production database backups.
Haven’s use of AWS expanded from there. The company was using an on-premise billing solution for bills of an annual turnover greater than £750 million. With infrastructure that was approaching five years old, the on-premise solution was nearing the end of its life. “We would have had to go through a significant and costly upgrade to get the system where we wanted it,” Armstrong says. In late 2013, Haven decided to migrate its billing system, a mission-critical workload, to production on AWS. The company built its billing application on AWS CloudFormation and set up the network using AWS DirectConnect. The migration was successful, and the company has migrated its SQL Server-based data warehouse to AWS. The final solution connected Haven on premise to three AWS Availability Zones (AZs) across 2 Virtual Private Clouds (VPC). One VPC was retained for Business Continuity in a separate AZ and the other VPC was created across 2 AZs to provide automatic failover.
For storage, Haven uses Amazon EBS Provisioned IOPS (SSD), provisioning 4,000 PIOPS disks across multiple volumes. Amazon Route 53 is used for DNS, and Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) is used for notification services.
To manage its infrastructure, the company uses Smart421’s SmartSentinel, an AWS Resource Management tool using AWS APIs, and Amazon SNS for scheduling snapshots and uptime. Configuration of the environment is managed by AWS CloudFormation templates.
By moving its billing system to AWS, Haven has seen a 5-6x improvement in performance. Before migrating, Haven’s average response time was 500 milliseconds—but by using AWS, the company now averages 80 milliseconds.
The company has realized upfront cost savings of at least £250,000 by using AWS instead of investing in a traditional hardware-based infrastructure. “We couldn’t have migrated our billing system so efficiently or so inexpensively without AWS,” Armstrong says. “Using AWS helps reduce our costs, increases our agility, and significantly improves our capacity.”
Haven is continuing to grow, and finds that using AWS helps capacity management. “We need to continue to grow without adding hardware for new systems,” Armstrong says. “AWS lets us do that, and helps give us better management of the platform too,” Armstrong says. “We are very happy with the flexibility, agility and cost benefits that AWS offers. AWS lets us pay for only what we use and reduces maintenance overheads.”
To learn more about how AWS can help support your backup and disaster recovery needs, visit: http://aws.amazon.com/disaster-recovery/.