Public utility company JKP Informatika, a municipal IT and internet service provider in the town of Novi Sad, Serbia, overhauled its entire infrastructure to improve resilience of its systems and reinforce them against external cyberattacks. Due to previous positive experience with VMware technologies, the company opted for a comprehensive VMware modern data center solution to build a 3-location stretched cluster to operate its services for local authorities, public institutions, and citizens. They now enjoy greater speed and security with no outages.
Public utility company JKP Informatika Novi Sad (Informatika) provides telecommunication, utility, and household billing services. IT infrastructure and systems are the core of Informatika’s business and the company’s success hinges on their smooth and reliable operation. The company is expected to provide services to the municipality and its citizens in a timely manner and according to expectations, with the driving factors being speed, security, and technological excellence. However, Informatika’s infrastructure was based on disparate and ageing technologies, rendering its services prone to outages and vulnerable to external threats, with slow recovery.
Ransomware attack reveals vulnerabilities and triggers changes
“It all started with a ransom attack in Spring 2020, which put our systems out of operation, and we struggled to get them back online. We arrived at the conclusion that we needed to evolve the infrastructure and implement new technology that would improve resilience of the system and allow for speedy disaster recovery,” explains Duško Novaković, director assistant for Information and communication technology of JKP Informatika Novi Sad.
Based on its previous positive experience with VMware solutions like vSphere, Informatika opted for this vendor’s technologies to modernize its infrastructure. VMware was chosen also because it was the most logical and cost effective solution as Informatika wanted to future-proof their infrastructure and to make it more secure. The implementation partner Braineering, a leading Serbian systems integrator, thus recommended Informatika to deploy a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) solution based on VMware vSphere and vSAN across a stretched (metropolitan) cluster with two primary data center locations and one alternative location, with an automatic failover. The vSphere and vSAN HCI infrastructure supports over 300 VMs on a total of 10 servers with approximately 1000 end users.
The system uses VMware vSphere vMotion to automatically migrate from one site to another based on pre-configured rules and procedures. VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) enables the recovery of the two locations should one site collapses. The new vSAN architecture also meant a switch from more costly and difficult to manage Storage Area Network (SAN). In the new architecture, all production systems leverage vSAN, while backups are located on a traditional system. Replacement of SAS and SATA drives with SSD and NVMe arrays has resolved speed issues.
Resistance to attacks and disasters and a potential for further growth
Expanding the existing vSphere environment with a cluster solution, the new architecture has virtually eliminated downtime due to the introduction of a third site that acts as a supervisor between the two main sites. This third location serves as a quorum, which means that it constantly watches the other two locations and should one of them fail, the other is automatically activated. This automatic failover has substantially improved reliability and availability of the infrastructure. The hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) has eliminated previous serious issues with network communication and micro-segmentation capabilities of the 100% virtualized environment have improved security. As a part of the infrastructure, Braineering also implemented next generation firewall and zero day security solutions.
Employee productivity has also increased due to reduced complexity, with much easier configuration and integrated management of compute and storage resources through a single pane of glass. Informatika also appreciated a switch from CAPEX to OPEX as it rents the new infrastructure from the implementation partner, Braineering. Overall, Informatika’s systems are now more resistant to attacks and disasters, which has a significant positive impact for its business as a critical services provider.
“Software-defined and virtualized solutions from VMware have proved that they have a potential to reduce complexity, simplify operations, and improve security and resilience. As a result, we have been able to achieve a completely new level of services and guarantee their quality to the customers,” concludes Duško Novaković.