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First in Energy & Electricity – EasyStack to Build OpenStack-Based Cloud Platform for Core Business Systems at Heilongjiang Electric Power Company


Since the beginning of the Economic Reforms, China’s field of Energy & Electricity has developed remarkably, ranking first worldwide in throughput capacity, scale of power consumption and grid coverage. In light of these achievements, reinforce demand structure reform and drive continuous growth to improve structural efficiency of the demand system become the utmost of urgency. As a company exclusively invested by the National State Grid Corporation, the Heilongjiang Electric Power Company Limited is taking on this challenge through embracing cloud computing technology and its innovation while being responsible for the provincial power grid’s building, operating and maintaining, as well as safe and reliable all-coverage electricity delivery.

Electricity is the lifeline to a nation’s economy, a breakdown would bring tremendous social and economic effects. Consequently the State Grid Corporation constantly monitors the state of operation of all provincial power companies. But this practice is generating great challenges to the transformation of a power system whose reliability was achieved by the stacking of specialized hardware devices, to a flexible, agile cloud.

After stringent evaluation and model selection, Heilongjiang Electric Power Company chose to collaborate with EasyStack, for its rich, diverse experiences in mid- to large-sized enterprise-level OpenStack implementation and superb technical capability, to build a dedicated cloud computing platform for its electric power businesses. Over 200 nodes are expected in the first stage of the project, underlining its scale. This is the first case in which core businesses are put on the cloud in Energy & Electricity. Presently, systems on sales and marketing, financial management, the energy modernization applications, Mobile Operations Management, technical support for national power markets, and the electric grid’s GIS have all gone live on the Heilongjiang Electric Power Cloud Platform. Launched simultaneously were data processing systems including big data & analytics and data exchange, etc. The entire platform is expected to have around 700 physical nodes, making it the largest, most demonstrative cloud platform on electric power in China.

“This OpenStack cloud platform for The State Grid Heilongjiang Electric Power Company accomplished total cloudification of computing, storage and network resources, while migrating all business systems to the cloud platform. The systems have been stable and reliable in the year it’s run, not to say greatly improving operational efficiency. We have planned to develop automated tools on operation and maintenance base on this platform, and further integrate them with the big data platform. This OpenStack cloud platform will provide to the Heilongjiang Electric Power Company valuable support in the form of an agile, manageable infrastructure to continue on the path of business innovation.

Design of the Heilongjiang Electric Power Cloud Platform

Considering that the size of the finished platform will reach 700 physical servers, and that it will carry the core production systems in the energy & electricity industry, platform reliability and availability was the single most important design objective. Addressing this need, the Heilongjiang Electric Power Company collaborated closely with EasyStack engineers on the overall architecture of the platform, providing specific design and optimization solution for key component that would affect the platform as a whole.

Cloud Management Platform with High Availability and High Performance OpenStack Control Plane

The high availability of an OpenStack cloud platform relies on the high availability of its control plane. A pain point in designing, then, is the balancing of conflicts between the reliability of critical services and the platform’s scalability, while optimizing the OpenStack platfrom’s messaging mechanism through the compute, network, storage and other components. After optimization, inter-component message redundancy is greatly reduced, message forwarding efficiency is rapidly improved, building a solid foundation for carrying thousands of computing nodes.

The implementation of HA and the platform’s high-reliability design differentiates from and makes it a leader to other OpenStack release versions, able to carry large-scale cloud computing environments within core businesses, easily meeting challenges from both traditional and innovative businesses in the energy & electricity industry.

Thorough optimization on compute, storage and network functions beginning at the source code level was able to at the end provide compute, storage and network functions near to that of the physical hardware device, providing to the Heilongjiang Electric Power Company’s various core business system high performing, reliable service platforms.

Compute Virtualization

The implementation of OpenStack cloud computing allowed the Heilongjiang Electric Power Company to improve utilization efficiency by being able to deploy the different business systems to physical servers according to the computing capabilities needed. The partitioning of applications through VMs ensured that each VM would receive the resources needed. When a physical machine goes down, the business system on it would be migrated or recovered according to preset schedule to other physical machines, ensuring SLA and reducing risks of business discontinuity. The integration with other business system application software clusters in Heilongjiang further ensures high reliability, continuity and fast scaling.

Using open sourced software like OpenStack, CentOS, KVM can effectively avoid vendor lock-in, as it’s open to almost all x86 servers as well as to MySQL, Oracle, Web Logic and other database and middleware application servers, achieving total self-service and control at the same time reducing CAPEX and OPEX of hardware and software.

Distributed Storage: Ceph

To address some of the storage problems carriers face, also in consideration of Heilongjiang Electric Power’s requirement on device status, system capability, reliability and scalability, namely that device procurement, increase in workload deployment and prolonged deployment of the cloud platform are to be avoided as much as possible, changes to the original device environment were minimal before deployment.

The Heilongjiang Electric Power Company adopted open source technology to realize distributed storage Ceph, using Cinder at the backend. This setup achieved unified storage, provided object storage, modular storage and support for file system. Single-point breakdowns were nonexistent while the storage capacity was highly scalable; automated failover and recovery mechanisms highly effective; snapshot, backup, recovery functions able to support OEMU and Libvirt virtualization and other functions.

In actual deployment, setting the OSD for SSD resource pool to high speed and the HDD resource pool to high capability achieved support for tipple backup. The distributed high-performance storage solution based on Ceph significantly improved the cloud host’s IO capability to more than enough to fulfill the most stringent of requirements to enterprise applications. Now, the Heilongjiang Electric Power Cloud Platform is able to complete the creation of a cloud host within 10 seconds, and able to provide real-time snapshots, with the operation time of taking the snapshot of a one-terabyte hard drive being less than two seconds.

Because of rapid growth in data volume, the Heilongjiang Electric Power Company conducted storage scale up on multiple occasions when deploying this solution, during which the Ceph rebalance priority was lowered to achieve online storage scale up while keeping the operation of already-live businesses unaffected

Network Virtualization

To fulfill demands on network capability, scalability and reliability, the virtualized networks in this project did not use L3 router for forwarding, but were directly matched to the corresponding VLAN portal to ensure user experience. A reasonable allocation of network traffic from different planes was achieved by the VLAN +OpenVSwitch network configuration.

In which:

The Communication Network was used for communications between virtual machines within the cloud;

The Business Network was for virtual machines to provide external business access;

The Storage Network was used for replicating data between the Ceph clusters;

The Deployment Network was used for configuring the cloud environment using physical hosts;

The Management Network was used for communications between OpenStack and the hosts being managed;

The enablement of multiple nodes allowed for load banalnce of the public network as well as HA, high performance and high usability. The network nodes achieved HA through utilizing the Active/Standby method at the router level, while HA stability was realized through employing independent network router provision services.

Operation and Maintenance of the OpenStack Cloud Environment

Large scale deployment of clusters often involved asset management. The Heilongjiang Electric Power Company have registered all of its physical services, and have assigned log numbers at designated places. Roller, the installation tool from EasyStack was the designated fixed IP address, guaranteeing that newly deployed clusters are consistent with the existing asset list. Later, the oeration and maintenance can also use Roller to scale the clusters with agility.

Furthermore, the Heilongjiang Electric Power Cloud Platform also realized the automated deployment of the Company’s internal IM platform, such that operators only needed to output texts to deliver interactions to complete the deployment. Automated operation & maintenance and script scanning tests were also implemented in the solution to periodically set up and execute operation & maintenance tasks.

Provisioning the OpenStack Cloud Computing – Ensuring Business Continuity

In the Heilongjiang Electric Power Cloud Platform solution, Zabbix was responsible for detecting and alerting abnormalities in the physical servers, OpenStack services and Ceph clusters. Such notifications were generated as SMS or WeChat messages and sent to the phones of the operators responsible. Functions realized by EasyStack’s Zabbix monitor integration include real-time large-screen display, indicator lighting and automated message delivery.

OpenStack Security

The Heilongjiang Electric Power Company maintained OpenStack security mainly through access control and network security management, in turn ensuring safety of the cloud platform. Identity validation were implemented on the API transfer between each OpenStack component, controlling access rights through the role regulation services in terms of the user, tenant or projects to control consumer access to each service resource.

Also, the Heilongjiang Electric Power Company also used OpenStack to realize tri-layer account access management, presenting different navigation screens to users of different access rights, allowing each business project team to deploy and revise their own virtual machines.

Electricity + the Internet: Embracing Cloud Computing, Now Is The Time.

Currently the Heilongjiang Electric Power Cloud Computing Platform has deployed 272 physical host servers, completed the migration of 80% of its systems including the Sales & Marketing, Financial Management, PMS 2.0, Electricity Trading, GIS systems, etc. Among which the Sales & Marketing system has continuously operated for 13 months and counting, with the operational efficiency improving by 30%. 100% of business systems have completed entering the cloud.

Specific statistics include: the time needed to generate monthly statement have shortened from the 12 hours needed before to the current 72 minutes, an efficiency improvement of 900%; time consumption for generating the financial report on sales & marketing have shortened from the original 1 hour 47 minutes to the current 4 minutes, an efficiency improvement of 2575%, and page response time at traffic peak have shortened from 6-8 seconds before to 1-2 seconds now, its efficiency improving by 300%.

The building of this cloud platform has also allowed the Heilongjiang Electric Power Company to complete its Hadoop platform, truly realize offline data analysis, enable the collection of logs on servers, network devices, security devices, databases, system middleware and access management systems through an unified log analysis platform, as well as the analysis of real-time communication system data.

EasyStack’s Founder and CEO Chen Xilun commented:” The adoption and advancement of new technologies cannot be done without respectful clients, CIO and architects worthy of our most sincere gratitude. They embody great vision and boldness, and have the courage to be pioneers in adopting new technologies to drive innovation and industry transformation. The Heilongjiang Electric Power Company is one of such pioneers, being ahead in the enterprise practices of OpenStack in China. EasyStack is deeply honored to be able to provide services to such a client.

As China proceeds through its thirteenth Five-Year Plan, all industries are looking to change in this momentum created by Cloud Computing, Big Data & Analytics and other technologies in an attempt to rebuild the industry makeup and be in the best position to leverage industry development. The Heilongjiang Electric Power Company was bold enough to be a first in taking on an integration of the OpenStack cloud platform and the internet for its core business systems with an attitude for innovation and a steady approach – a fine combination that will project a future of brilliance in the domain of power and electricity.