We’ve seen much stronger performance for our database-backup workloads with the Amazon EBS st1 volumes, and we’re also saving 75% on our monthly backup costs. 
Randy Young Director of Cloud Operations

Infor builds business applications with last-mile functionality and scientific insights, delivered securely through the cloud for select industries. With 15,000 employees and customers in more than 200 countries and territories around the world, Infor automates critical processes for industries including healthcare, manufacturing, fashion, wholesale distribution, hospitality, retail, and public sector.

When Infor made the decision to move to the cloud and offer comprehensive industry suites, the company identified many customer advantages. “Our business was growing in places like Asia and Europe, and we wanted to be able to bring up applications faster for customers in those regions,” says Randy Young, director of cloud operations at Infor. “To do that, we needed more agility, and building data centers did not make sense for our customers and the business. We wanted to get away from managing our own hardware procurement and provisioning.”

Infor also sought a way to shorten the backup times for its Microsoft SQL Server-based application data. “We have around two petabytes of SQL Server data that we backup every day,” says Young. “It could take up to 12 hours to do a full backup, which was too long.”

It was also critical for Infor to improve the availability of its customer applications. “These are mission-critical solutions such as enterprise resource planning, human resource, and healthcare applications,” Young says. “High availability is essential.”

Infor chose to go all in on Amazon Web Services (AWS), moving its customer-facing applications to the AWS Cloud. “We trusted Amazon’s position as the leader in cloud technology, and we were very confident about moving our applications to AWS,” says Young. Infor migrated multiple enterprise applications from its data center to AWS, each running on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances with Elastic Load Balancing distributing traffic. The company uses Auto Scaling to automate the process of scaling applications up or down in response to demand.

Infor uses Amazon EC2 I2 instances, which are optimized to deliver tens of thousands of low-latency IOPS to applications. “A lot of our SQL Server workloads can push 15,000 IOPs continuously, for long periods of time, and it was becoming challenging for us to support that,” says Young. “We really liked the performance and value we saw in the Amazon EC2 I2 instances.” The company uses the Amazon EC2 I2 instances for ephemeral storage of SQL Server databases, with clusters supported in multiple Availability Zones. “The Amazon EC2 I2 instances with ephemeral storage provide strong performance for our transactional workloads. The ability to cluster across multiple availability zones enables higher application availability.”

Infor also started using Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS), a service that provides block-level storage volumes for the company’s Amazon EC2 instances. Amazon EBS volumes are highly available and can be attached to any Amazon EC2 instance in the same Availability Zone. The company had local Amazon EBS volumes attached to primary and standby instances for its SQL Server databases, with the databases backed up using snapshots of their Amazon EBS volumes to Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). Recently, Infor decided to upgrade its database-backup workload by using Amazon’s throughput-optimized HDD (st1) EBS volume types, a low-cost volume type designed for high-throughput sequential workloads.

By moving to Amazon EBS st1 volumes—which are less than half the cost of gp2 volumes—Infor achieved better performance while reducing costs. Cost savings were amplified because fewer backups were needed, which in turn reduced capacity requirements on both the company’s Amazon EBS staged volumes as well as on the Amazon EBS snapshots used to back up their volumes to Amazon S3. “We’ve seen much stronger performance for our database-backup workloads with the Amazon EBS st1 volumes, and we’re also saving 75 percent on our monthly backup costs,” says Young. “We’ve also been able to improve our live data backup recovery points in time.”

Because Amazon EBS st1 volumes provide consistent throughput for SQL Server storage and backup, Infor is experiencing faster data backup and transaction-log backup times. “We’re getting our SQL Server backups done 30 percent faster now,” says Young. “It used to take up to 12 hours to complete a full database backup, so cutting that down by 30 percent is a big deal for us.” Additionally, Infor was able to reduce the amount of backup data it keeps on disk, thanks to the company’s architecture and the performance of Amazon EBS st1 volumes. Specifically, the low cost of the st1 volumes gave Infor the ability to dedicate three separate st1 volumes per database; one for transaction logs, one for partial backups, and one for full backups. This configuration optimizes the backup footprint for size while making both restores and snapshots faster. The high-throughput performance of the st1 volumes also allows for faster staged backups from database to st1 volumes, and faster snapshots to Amazon S3 for long-term backup. In turn, Infor does not have to keep two or three backup copies, which it previously did as a hedge against uncertainty resulting from much longer backup processes. “We have a three-terabyte database that we need to back up once a week, and we have been able to reduce the size of that database backup by one-fifth. By keeping the backup footprint smaller on the EBS st1 volumes, we don’t have to constantly take database snapshots over a 12-hour period,” says Young.

Infor has also gained more agility by running its enterprise applications on AWS. “Using services like Auto Scaling, we can automatically scale our applications up or down without having to manage the process in our data centers,” says Young. “We can be more agile in our approach, and we can move faster when it comes to getting customer applications up and running in Asia, Europe, and other new markets. On the whole, being more agile means we can respond faster to our growing customer requirements throughout the world.”

The company has also increased the availability of its customer applications by using AWS. “By taking advantage of synchronous replication between three availability zones, we can ensure higher availability for our customers across the globe,” says Young. “We have been able to exceed our customer SLAs for uptime by being on the AWS Cloud. That will be very important as we keep growing our business globally.”

Learn more about how Amazon Elastic Block Store can help provide persistent, block-level storage volumes for use with Amazon EC2 instances in the AWS Cloud. 

For more information on how Infor utilizes AWS, see Infor's presentation at the AWS San Francisco Summit.