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INFOnline Relies on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat’s Partner Ecosystem for Scalable and Secure Storage and Backup Architecture Solutions
November 2, 2010
INFOnline moved from a simple legacy hard-disk backup solution to a multi-tier storage infrastructure with clustered fail-over capacities based on Red Hat® Enterprise Linux® and SEP sesam on IBM System x and System p servers, as well as various IBM storage hardware
Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Cluster Suite, Red Hat Network Satellite, SEP sesam, Nagios Software Groundwork (for monitoring), Red Hat Consulting, Red Hat Global File System
IBM System x servers, IBM System p servers, 2 IBM DS 3400 and 1 IBM DS 8000 hard-disk storage, Hardware TS3100 tape library
Based in Bonn, Germany, INFOnline provides independent Internet Audience Measurement for more than 1,300 online publications in Germany.
INFOnline measures the usage of websites and delivers an aggregated anonymized statistics to IVW, an organisation of the German publishing sector and the German online marketers organisation (AGOF). Based on these numbers, there organisations publish monthly performance indicators for the German online advertising market.
The performance metrics enable easy comparison of online publications and help agencies plan campaigns tailored to reach specific target groups.
INFOnline’s Audience Measurement methodology follows the standards and regulations set by AGOF and IVW which, in turn, adhere to the rules of the International Federation of Audit Bureaux of Circulations (IFABC).BUSINESS CHALLENGE
Since its founding in 2002, INFOnline has seen tremendous growth both in terms of the number of websites tracked by its Internet Audience Measurement technology and the volume of data generated by those sites. Simultaneously, the IVW, AGOF, and ag.ma performance indicator an studies have become indispensable components of the online advertising buying processes of agencies and publishing houses alike. Everyone in the advertising value chain relies on INFOnline to deliver the right data, meeting the required quality standards at any given time.
“Our services have become mission-critical to the online advertising market in Germany. Very rightly so, our clients expect absolute reliability and 24/7/365 availability of the data that enables their business to thrive,” said Dirk Wippern, managing director of INFOnline GmbH.
Not only do the “user counter” servers produce more than 30 GB of new usage data every day, but there is also an enormous amount of historical data to be processed; a challenge that motivated INFOnline to revisit its data security and backup strategy. “Our key strategic IT challenges are availability, data security, and scalability of our measurement systems,” said Peter van Beek, services manager at INFOnline’s IT services department. “Each month, we have to process more data from more member sites generated by more and more visitors to those sites. That puts great pressure on our server infrastructure based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux.”
As the need to hold and process more data became evident, INFOnline recognized a need to replace its legacy backup system.
“In 2007, we could see that our legacy backup system, which was merely relying on hard drives attached to servers, wouldn’t be able to store the increasing amount of data much longer,” said van Beek. “In addition, the management of the old data was cumbersome task and didn’t deliver the level of service our clients expected. We needed a larger, more scalable and reliable backup solution that was easier to manage.”
When planning the new backup and storage system, INFOnline worked with Red Hat Advanced Business Partner dassIT, who had previously set up a monitoring solution for the company. dassIT helped select the right hardware and backup software solutions that would be capable of meeting INFOnline’s requirements.
dassIT designed a multi-tier storage and backup architecture. Tier 1 of the architecture uses mirrored IBM DS 3400 hard-disk storage to store the latest audience measurement data provided by the “counter” servers in 10-minute intervals. Tier 2 consists of a database backup system on an IBM DS 8000 hard-disk storage machine holding 15 TB of production data-the amount of information generated during seven months of audience measurement. In tier 3 of the storage architecture, INFOnline and dassIT created a tape archive with a TS3100 LT04 tape library designed to store all data for reference purposes.
INFOnline now runs a server infrastructure of 30 Red Hat Enterprise Linux machines on IBM System x and System p hardware, which are divided into task-specific groups. Some handle reporting processes, others are web servers, and the third group of Red Hat Enterprise Linux machines run the new multi-tier backup and replication process.
“Everything in our back-end system is based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. When INFOnline first started in 2002, we evaluated various operating system options, but selected Red Hat because of its reliability and quick innovation cycles. Since this point, we’ve always migrated to the latest version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux very quickly to benefit from a unified server infrastructure.”
“Our clients are guaranteed near real-time availability of the audience measurement data via a dedicated web interface. That’s why our online Tier 1 storage needed to be highly available and be able to retrieve the latest analytics information from the counter servers very quickly,” explained Peter van Beek. “In addition, we need to orchestrate several more storage-related processes using SEP sesam.”
At INFOnline, the SEP sesam solution co-ordinates 37 clients running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux machines, making storage at the right time. The SEP sesam solution provided by SEP, a backup and disaster recovery software company and a Red Hat Advanced ISV Partner, is designed to monitor and manage even the largest multi-client infrastructures.
“In addition to SEP sesam, Red Hat Cluster Suite is a key feature for us because it provides the high availability we need,” said van Beek. “Our two Red Hat Enterprise Linux server clusters sit between Tier 1 and Tier 2 storage, unsuring all schedule replication jobs actually aggregate the data from the smaller DS 3400 drives to our DS 8000.”
When planning and designing its new state-of-the-art storage and backup architecture, INFOnline relied on the experience of Red Hat’s partners dassIT and SEP. “With dassIT we have the perfect systems integrator partner on board that fully understands our requirements and regularly comes up with clever ideas for better scaling of our systems. dassIT brought in SEP sesam, which has proven to be a very reliable backup solution that keeps the stream of data moving through our systems like clockwork,”said van Beek.
Deploying the new storage architecture with Red Hat partners also considerably sped up the planning and implementation process. The new system was up and running just three months after the decision was made to implement a multi-tier hard-disk and tape storage system for backup security. “We hired Red Hat Consulting services for two days, in addition to dassIT’s support, to help us set up the Red Hat Global File System cluster,” said van Beek.
As opposed to the very simple old hard-disk backup, INFOnline now runs a folly scalable and highly reliable backup system with fail-over capacities for all mission-critical systems. The IT services team manages the company’s Red Hat Enterprise Linux servers with Red Hat Network Satellite and is capable of recovering an entire system consisting of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SEP sesam, and a monitoring software within a few hours after failure.
“We’re now well-equipped to add another dimension to our Internet Audience Monitoring,” said van Beek. “As our clients IVW and AGOF plan to add the time spend on a site to the audience metrics, the amount of data generated by our counter servers will be even higher than today. With the advent of mobile Internet usage monitoring and analysing of online video consumption on IVW and AGOF member websites, we expect the growth of data volumes to be exponential rather than linear moving forward.”