HVB Group

German bank overhauls its DR plans to cut costs and boost performance

April 4, 2006

3 Min Read
Network Computing logo

Most IT managers would balk at the logistical challenge of transplanting their main backup site from one state to another. But the U.S. headquarters of German bank HVB Group has achieved just this, managing to overhaul its disaster recovery strategy without increasing its costs.

Speaking at an event in New York last week, Christopher Wrenn, HVB's COO, explained that back in 2003, the firm decided to revamp its disaster recovery plan. Until then, HVB had used a SunGard disaster recovery site in Long Island City in Queens, just three miles away from the firm's offices in Manhattan.

"Because we deemed that was too close to our primary location, we moved to a site that's further away," explained Wrenn. The firm eventually opted for another SunGard facility in Carlstadt, New Jersey, some 12 miles from its offices.

Deciding how close to locate disaster recovery sites is a major dilemma for IT managers, particularly after the events of 9/11, when a large part of downtown Manhattan was inaccessible. CIOs need to weigh the hassle of getting staff to the new location against the security of placing the disaster recovery site as far as possible from their offices.

"We did look at sites that were 100 miles away, but the logistics of getting there meant that this was a happy medium. This is easy enough to get to," explains Lisa Sciarrino, HVB's managing director.IT managers and CIOs in New York recently voiced their concerns about the impact of another blackout on the city, citing the costs and challenges involved in building a backup strategy involving multiple power suppliers and separate grids. (See Blackout Looms for NYC.)

Despite the potential difficulties, Sciarrino explained that examining multiple sources of supply was key to upgrading the firm's previous disaster recovery plan. "We realized that both of our sites were served by Con Edison. It was two different grids but only one power supplier," she said.

The Long Island City site was also deemed too big, with 84 "dedicated seats" permanently reserved for HVB staff in the event of a crisis. Sciarrino explained that HVB cut its costs by shifting to a new pricing model in Carlstadt, which involves just 50 dedicated seats. Another 50, however, are available on an as-needed subscription basis.

"We increased our disaster recovery functionality, without increasing our disaster recovery costs," she said, although she would not reveal the sums involved.

With just 350 staff in the entire U.S., Sciarrino explained that paying for permanent space to accommodate 84 staff was overkill, whereas 50 is just right. "Our critical mass of people can be in those seats. We view those extra 50 as company insurance," she says.But, the shift to the new disaster recovery site, which was originally scheduled for early July last year, was not without mishap. According to Sciarrino, four boxes of equipment were stolen from one of the trucks moving HVB kit from Queens to New Jersey, prompting the bank to delay the move by three weeks.

On July 31, 2005, with the stolen equipment replaced, HVB finally made the move over to the Garden State. Unlike the previous site, the Carlstadt facility has dual power from two grids and two separate suppliers, according to Sciarrino.

HVB is also using three T1 links to its new recovery site, as well as a Sonet ring to keep its data moving. "We now have a high availability disaster recovery environment. Our recovery time is now zero."

Not everything was overhauled as part of the new plan. HVB is still using its own servers and storage for disaster recovery, instead of using kit provided by SunGard or another vendor. The bank could not reveal exactly what it uses, although execs confirmed that an IBM AS/400 device and four racks of servers are held in a 150-square-foot cage.

"We found that it was cheaper to buy the equipment ourselves," explained Sciarrino. It's simpler to replace the equipment yourself rather than relying on a vendor, who may write the contract again."James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights