Implementation of a business continuity strategy at VimpelCom

Customer: VimpelCom Ltd.

About the client

VimpelCom's operating profit in 2006 was over 4.8 billion dollars or 3.5 times as much as in 2003, prior to its expansion to CIS markets. The company operates under the Beeline brand in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Georgia; the brand in Armenia is Armentel. At the end of 2003 VimpelCom had about 11 million subscribers as opposed to over 57 million today.

This impressive progress, however, involved some increasing technological hurdles. While VimpelCom was aggressively expanding its network coverage area, its technical support potential was largely concentrated in the Moscow data center. In the event of its failure VimpelCom could instantly lose contact with all subscribers, a threat to the very existence of a mobile operator.

Comments Dmitriy Ustyuzhanin, manager, information security, VimpelCom: "Our development has been relying on an efficient, manageable and centralized IT strategy, a competitive advantage indeed. Business continuity and disaster recovery planning, unfortunately, were sort of lagging behind. In fact, in case of a disaster at our only data center we could lose control over the business."

Not only does a comprehensive business continuity strategy eliminate technological bottlenecks in the network. It also makes all services more reliable and accessible. «Our business so heavily depends on the availability of the IT infrastructure that the lack of BC-oriented responses can really jeopardize the company's future," – notes Sergey Shilin, manager, IT infrastructure, VimpelCom.

First steps

BC-oriented reforms at VimpelCom were in fact triggered by a fire at the data center of Jet Infosystems, its principal systems integrator. A video recording with the aftermath of the fire was shown to VimpelCom's management. Though Jet had succeeded in full data recovery, the disaster demonstrated the vulnerability of any high-tech company to emergencies. Vladimir Filippov, VimpelCom's vice-president, architecture and development, shares his feelings: "The video was a graphic indication of likely losses in case of a disaster at our own data center. It also underscored the critical importance of physical protection of data and fault tolerance. Indeed, even a short disruption in service could seriously harm our cherished brand. VimpelCom therefore decided to develop a business continuity strategy and set up a redundant data center."

Many BC consultancies were eager to help. Vitaliy Zadorozhnyi, manager, business continuity, explains VimpelCom's choice of Symantec Consulting and Jet Infosystems: "The project called for the best experience, a realistic mindset and top-notch skills. Jet Infosystems staff have a deep knowledge of our data centers, while Symantec consultants suggested a world-class strategy to reach our BC objectives. As a result we got a brilliant team of consummate professionals where Symantec staff were responsible for plans and methodologies while Jet Infosystems developed and deployed the engineering solutions."

Beeline offers the entire range of GSM 900/1800 mobile communications services, landline services, long-distance and international communications, data transfer, wireless, fixed and broadband Internet access.

The Beeline network is based on state-of-the-art 3G hardware.

VimpelCom Ltd. consists of telecommunications companies providing voice and data services through a range of wireless, fixed and broadband technologies. The VimpelCom group is operating in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam and Cambodia, covering a territory with a total population of about 345 million.

An efficient business continuity plan

Symantec Consulting in close cooperation with Jet Infosystems were working in two areas. On the one hand, the physical IT infrastructure was designed and deployed. On the other hand, a comprehensive BC plan was developed. "It is easy to launch a process when the company is ready. We at VimpelCom did realize the critical importance of business continuity for our business, - says Vladimir Filippov. – I must note the excellent performance of the joint Symantec-Jet Infosystems team throughout the project. Based on a detailed review covering the business impact of emergency situations, inherent risks and existing IT solutions, the team proposed upgrade options and BC concepts that were truly tailored to our specific needs."

A key decision made at the strategic planning stage was to set up a redundant data center in Moscow. "The primary data center employs about 300 Sun Microsystems RISC servers connected to disk arrays via a SAN. It is in this environment with a storage capacity of over 300 terabytes that VimpelCom runs most core applications, including critical ones such as customer self-service, billing, CRM and partner relationship systems," - comments VimpelCom's IT manager Sergey Shilin.

Veritas NetBackup™ Enterprise Edition is now used for data backup on tape libraries stored in the redundant data center. The Veritas Storage Foundation™ system for Oracle, including Veritas Cluster Server™, supports a cluster of active/active servers to maintain ultra-high availability. The Veritas CommandCentral™ system that is currently being deployed will keep records of services, measure service levels and prepare resource use reports. It will also use a built-in task flow management tool for automatic resource allocation and calculate the cost of Beeline services.

Transparent disaster recovery

Business continuity at VimpelCom has passed a major test recently. A firewall failure in one of the data centers caused an Internet access problem. This would have been a real calamity without a redundant data center. At risk was the ability of the company to provide uninterrupted support to client self-service and cash terminals operated by retail partners across several time zones. With the new infrastructure, however, the problem was unnoticed outside of the data center: all the services were simply transferred to the redundant facility.

Any business continuity strategy involves a careful business impact analysis. During such analysis all VimpelCom applications were divided in four priority groups and each of them assigned a recovery point objective and a recovery time objective. The method of data replication now depends on whether the recovery time is measured in minutes, hours or – sometimes – days. Symantec Consulting has also developed procedures, prepared manuals and organized crisis management training sessions for VimpelCom staff.

The business continuity project has brought substantial economic benefits. An in-depth risk analysis has shown that financial losses due to an incident are now far less likely. Also, an independent study has shown that a major disaster or a disruption in services could drastically reduce Beeline brand value. This hazard is now under control.

«I am pleased to note that in the course of our joint work Symantec and Jet Infosystems staff have been truly professional and results-driven, - says Dmitriy Ustyuzhanin. – As each project stage they explained all the risks and possible savings - or losses in case of inaction. We were really speaking one and the same language."

Business needs:

  • To minimize financial losses in case of an emergency
  • To resume business services within a specified time after a disruption

Technological objectives:

  • To set up a scalable, efficient and flexible infrastructure.
  • To prevent service disruption due to local and large-scale problems
  • To develop processes, procedures and manuals for dealing with emergencies in the IT infrastructure.

Solution

  • Development and deployment of an IT service continuity strategy
  • Development and deployment of a business continuity strategy

Symantec products

  • Veritas NetBackup™ Enterprise Edition
  • Veritas Storage Foundation™ for Oracle
  • Veritas Cluster Server™
  • Veritas CommandCentral™

Technological environment

  • Two data centers in Moscow
  • Up to 300 Sun Microsystems RISC servers connected to midrange and high-end disk arrays through a SAN
  • Enterprise environment capacity: over 300 terabytes.
  • Critical applications: customer self-service, billing, CRM and partner relationship management systems
  • Fire systems, access control equipment, UPS equipment and climate control subsystems in server rooms.

Economic benefits and technological advantages

Lower risks

  • Negligible chances of a financial loss due to a disaster
  • No disaster-induced damage to the Beeline brand

Availability

  • Continuous access to data and services
  • Fewer IT failures and less downtime

Productivity

  • Efficient recovery plans developed for processes, applications, data and IT infrastructure components.

Executive resume

VimpelCom, a leading Russian mobile operator, came to realize a while ago that its only data center in Moscow was unable to catch up with spectacular growth of the business. While the number of customers increased about fivefold over three years, the data center remained the single point of failure.

With the help of Symantec Consulting and Jet Infosystems experts VimpelCom has adopted a comprehensive strategy for business continuity and disaster recovery based on a range of Symantec tools. The project was one of the largest in the world. As a result, VimpelCom has reduced business risks, protected its assets and minimize the impact of disasters.

Download (pdf, 184.02 Kb)

Implementation of a business continuity strategy at VimpelCom