Posti Messaging’s clients expect its systems to be available 24/7, and its service level agreements (SLAs) demand recovery times of less than 30 minutes. How could the company meet these challenging requirements?
Working with IBM Services™, Posti Messaging redesigned its storage architecture to increase resilience, while using IBM Elastic Storage Server to provide Tier 0 performance.
30-minuterecovery time enables Posti Messaging to meet SLAs and avoid lost revenues
2x fasterstorage performance, with synchronous replication between two data centers
40% reductionin storage requirements enabled by built-in compression capabilities
Business challenge story
Ensuring round-the-clock efficient digital services
As companies make the leap towards digitization, the integration hub and operator network providers that help them achieve this goal are under pressure to deliver. Specifically, they must take advantage of the latest technology to guide customers successfully in digitizing their communications, invoices, marketing and other documents.
Posti Messaging, Finland’s largest operator network, integration hub and document delivery provider, is a prime example. The company processes hundreds of millions of invoice and document transactions each year, playing a crucial role in keeping the country’s business sector running. It has one of the largest digital archives in the country used by millions of end customers.
Running a digital transactions business on this scale requires powerful and sophisticated IT systems. At the center of its operations, Posti Messaging runs a messaging transactions engine that it developed in-house. Acting as a B2B/B2C transaction engine, data broker and data operator hub, the platform needs to be capable of ingesting, processing and routing the massive volumes of transactions that Posti Messaging receives every day.
Majid Ali, Head of Business IT for the Postal Services Group at Posti Messaging, comments: “Each transaction can involve dozens of files, which all need to be stored, transformed and handled correctly within tight deadlines. For example, a customer might send thousands of files and expect them all to be processed within 30 minutes.”
The business IT team is responsible for ensuring that Posti Messaging’s platform can deliver on these challenging service-level agreements (SLAs). Ali continues: “Performance is one aspect of our commitment to our customers, but reliability is even more important. If our system were to fail during a peak time, such as the weeks leading up to Christmas, each hour of downtime would potentially cost us and our clients millions of euros. We simply can’t afford to be offline for more than a few minutes, no matter what happens.”
Posti Messaging realized that the storage infrastructure supporting the integration engine would make it difficult to restore systems quickly if a major outage occurred. The existing storage landscape was difficult to manage, with data siloed in multiple storage area network (SAN) and network-attached storage (NAS) tiers.
Pushing the envelope
Posti Messaging considered rearchitecting its infrastructure around an active-active distributed storage cluster solution. Ali continues: “We’re looking at introducing data-mining capabilities to the platform in the future, which will put greater pressure on our storage systems. So, we needed to find a solution that would improve performance while also supporting future business opportunities and a hybrid cloud architecture.”
Fortunately, Posti Messaging already had part of the solution in place: for several years, it had been using IBM Spectrum Scale™ as a parallel file system to manage the storage cluster.
“We had experimented with other distributed file systems in the past, such as Apache HDFS,” comments Ali. “But Spectrum Scale was a much more well-rounded solution, with fewer moving parts to manage. It also integrated much better with our IBM Power Systems™ server environment.”
The team decided to work with IBM to simplify and consolidate the environment around a new generation of technology: IBM Elastic Storage Server. Ali comments: “IBM Elastic Storage Server has several major advantages for us. First, it simplifies our infrastructure, because all the data is in Tier 0—and that improves performance too. Second, it comes with Spectrum Scale built in, so we no longer have to manage the software-defined storage layer ourselves. It’s far easier to manage with our private cloud provider, and far easier to scale.”
The team worked with project management and technical specialists from IBM Services to implement the new solution, which comprises two IBM Elastic Storage Server GL1S systems, one at each private cloud site. The storage systems are connected across a wide area network, and all transactions are written to both clusters synchronously.
“The IBM team showed great commitment, especially when we ran into problems,” says Ali. “For example, they spent a few midnight sessions helping us debug some performance issues. It turned out that although our new IBM storage is much faster, our private cloud supplier’s network had become a bottleneck, so we had to fix the problem by purchasing dedicated switches for the solution.”
Delivering on schedule
Posti Messaging has transformed its integration platform with IBM Elastic Storage Server solutions. The company is now in a strong position to meet its current SLAs, and to innovate and introduce new capabilities.
Ali comments: “The Elastic Storage Servers are noticeably faster than our other storage systems in the private cloud. That performance boost gives us the speed we will need for new projects such as machine learning and artificial intelligence initiatives.”
Posti Messaging is also taking advantage of the Elastic Storage Server built-in compression capabilities, which have enabled it to reduce disk space requirements by 40 percent. At the same time, consolidating to a single storage platform has made scaling the infrastructure much easier: “Instead of having to make separate sizing plans for different storage tiers, we can simply scale out by installing more Elastic Storage Server nodes,” says Ali.
Finally—and most important of all—the new architecture dramatically improves Posti Messaging’s ability to recover quickly from failures. It can ensure that its core platform remains available even in the event of a catastrophic failure, such as a major power outage, fire or flood. Moreover, even if it ever does need to reload a system from backups, the Elastic Storage Server has been deployed with IBM Spectrum Protect™, which provides incremental, customer-level snapshots that can be restored much more quickly.
“With IBM’s help, we have substantially reduced the risk of significant downtime,” concludes Ali. “The ability to keep our systems open for business and get documents delivered on time is critical for Posti Messaging, for our clients, and for the whole Finnish economy.”
Posti Messaging Oy
Posti Messaging provides services and solutions for document management, multichannel sending and customer communications, enabling companies to automate and streamline workflows and optimize customer experiences. The company operates in Finland, Sweden and Norway. It is part of the Posti Group, Finland’s main mail services provider, with 22,000 employees and more than 1,900 service points across the country. The Posti Group generated sales of EUR 1.61 billion in 2018.