HP aces data center migration for Britannia

Data center migration

Britannia Industries Ltd. has enjoyed a smooth, seamless migration with minimum service outages. Akhtar Pasha reports on the data center migration project
Britannia Industries Ltd , one of India’s leading food companies, recently selected Hewlett-Packard India to implement a comprehensive IT outsourcing and transformation project that will include infrastructure solutions, SAP Application Services, consulting and outsourced services. This makes Britannia the first major FMCG Company to comprehensively outsource its IT operations including the data center (DC). This strategic outsourced partnership at India’s best known food company will help the various growth and business transformation initiatives within Britannia and ensure its long-term competitive position.
As part of the long term partnership, HP will implement tailormade solutions for the company. HP performs the role, as Britannia’s IT partner, of helping the company focus on aligning IT with Business and helping in achieving strategic IT objectives with standardized predictable IT processes and support across all operational locations. Vinita Bali, Managing Director, Britannia Industries said, “We are happy to partner with Hewlett-Packard to drive our business results through IT solutions that are leading-edge and helps us to serve our customers with excellence.” Given the steady growth in the FMCG industry, the IT infrastructure has to be increasingly responsive to keep pace with the company’s accelerated growth. To tackle this, HP has proposed an agile and adaptive infrastructure completely custom-built to Britannia’s specifications. These applications are derived from HP’s knowledge and vast experience in handling large complex DC operations globally. Britannia selected HP as its partner in IT-enabled transformation after an extensive and exhaustive evaluation. of solution providers.
What distinguishes Britannia as a front-runner in terms of IT adoption is its vision for Business Technology and a penchant for innovation. Shyamsunder, Vice President, Quality and IT at Britannia Industries Ltd., said, “The fact that we have made progress in leaps and bounds on the IT transformation front is because we have received the complete buy-in and support of the leadership team. Technology is perceived and accepted not only from the functional sense but as a key business enabler.”
One of the first IT initiatives undertaken at Britannia by HP involves a complex data center migration project.
The migration
This is the story of how HP helped Britannia migrate all of its 35 mission critical servers to a hosted data center 20 km away. The migration was completed in 24 hours flat, with minimum downtime and disruption to business operations.
V.V. Padmanabham, Corporate Manager-IS, Britannia Industries Ltd., emphasizing the mission criticality of the project said, “In our line of work, even a day’s loss of sale is not recoverable retrospectively. This would translate to lowered availability of products to sell to the distributors and would have a cascading effect in terms of actual sales. Keeping the downtime to the bare minimum was then, one of the fundamental premises of any migration exercise undertaken.”
The Britannia and HP teams jointly made a concerted effort to get the planning and project management outline in place, to ensure the success of the project. Good project management methodology entails that objectives are defined and crystal clear, that there is a proper balancing of quality, scope, cost and time, that the plan adopted will meet the expectations of various stakeholders that right resources are identified and finally that the project will be executed as per the plan. 
Padmanabham recalled “When we began the project we challenged several of our own assumptions on the IT infrastructure side. Every hour was critical during the data center migration and hence each anticipated activity during the migration was broken into sub-activities. Our single success factor had to be the amazing amount of detailing and the overall efficiency of the planning exercise.”
What this meant for the team internally was that any downtime required for the execution, had be justified to stakeholders and also had to stay within the parameters of their expectations. The only way to achieve this was to demonstrate an enormous level of detailing for each and every activity that had to be performed towards the server migration. Further, each activity level was detailed with a defined owner, escalation levels and communication matrix at each milestone. 
The detailing exercise was initiated by first devising an efficient Project Plan. The team pulled together a detailed Work Break-down Structure (WBS) of planned activities that encompassed a resolution of tasks with a duration of within 10 minutes. To gather the details that were woven into the WBS, the team first spent time conducting workshops with all the technical team members involved with managing the IT systems at Britannia. Once the planning exercise was in place, the estimated downtime was discussed with relevant stakeholders and their buy-in was obtained. At the end of the Planning Phase, the team also realized that the two day project (estimated) could be divided into four phases –Back-up, Shutdown, packing and moving, Reinstallation and finally Testing and go live.
By the time the planning exercise was complete, the team had answers to difficult questions including—what if the truck carrying our servers to the new destination meets with an accident? Or what if it starts to rain at the time of the DC migration? Even the packer and mover staff had been briefed on being sensitive to time wastage and handled the backend with ease—dismantling servers, moving them, placing them, drawing cables –the entire exercise was smoothly orchestrated. In great measure, the success of the project was due to the meticulous planning that preceded execution—over 20 working days went into planning the execution.
Challenges and solutions
Business Challenges
  • An in-house Data Center in operation which was not certified for compliance to industry standards.
  • Servers being added continuously, multiple platforms, need for consolidation
  • No prior experience in terms of DC migration
  • Mission critical applications left no room for extended downtime which would otherwise seriously hamper business
  • Large extended team working on the project, different skill levels, backgrounds, IT knowledge
  • DC Migration and SAN Migration undertaken together to eliminate downtime recurrences
  • The New DC organizes 35 servers optimally:UNIX Servers HPUX WINTEL HP SAN Tape Libraries Networking components
  • The new DC is a Level 3 data center.
  • Smooth, seamless transition within 24 hours
  • Improved response time to process transactions
  • Network Design such that the communication between servers is optimal
  • Increased mail speed
Exceeding expectations
Now that the planning was in place, the next step was to plan the time and allocation of resources to take the DC migration forward. During the resource allocation it was important to keep in mind, that for the DC migration exercise to be successful, it had to be executed continuously. This meant that the IT team available within Britannia had to work continuously for an estimated 48 hours. This would have been practically impossible and the challenge was surmounted by augmenting the internal team with additional resources from HP.
The HP team working with the Britannia DC Migration team underwent a detailed induction well before the execution date to understand the technical details of the Britannia IT system. Apart from technical and operational detailing, the team also facilitated soft factors such as accommodation of the team in proximity to the DC premises. To address the need of internally socializing the project, the team identified a communication manager whose only responsibility was to communicate the completion of mile stones to the senior management at Britannia and the HP team. This person was also assigned the responsibility of bringing to the team’s attention, any major deviations which could require senior management intervention.
The project, most importantly, exemplified team-work at its best. The large and diverse team consisted of IT engineers, facility and external workers including carpenters, electricians, cleaners, packers and movers. There was also the DC hosting service provider teams at the Britannia’s new DC. It took an entire month for the project team to complete all these activities leading up to the actual movement of the DC. Next was to actually execute the game plan.
Armed with a detailed WBS, the team went through the execution of the plan with clockwork precision and completed the process relatively easier than anticipated. In the end, the systems were released to production 1.30 hours prior to the allowed time schedule and deadline. There was absolutely no damage to equipment and zero hardware failures. Padmanabham explained, “There were over 46 people who finally worked on this migration to make it successful and they were from different companies, ranging from project managers to packers and movers. HP took the lead in terms of overall program management and saw the transformation through successfully, despite the challenges presented by the nature of the hybrid environment with multiple stakeholders from different backgrounds.”
Britannia officials are pleased with the pace at which the entire operations was carried out without/minimum disruption to its operations.