The Akshaya Patra Foundation, one of India's most renowned non-profit organizations, runs the largest mid-day meal programme in the world. The foundation serves nutritious school lunch to over 1.6 million children in 13,839 Schools across 12 States in India. To feed millions of school-going children is not a small task and Akshaya Patra manages to do that effectively week after week. The program has caused increased school attendance, enrolment, student concentration, and reduced drop-outs.
Challenged to upgrade IT infrastructure
To manage data generated by millions of transactions across the huge supply chain, the foundation needed a strong IT infrastructure. According to the leadership, the organization faced serious challenges as its legacy data centers which had become inadequate to handle the rising IT load. They therefore upgraded the IT infrastructure to ensure foolproof supply chain, management information system, enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management across 30 locations.
"The main challenge was that earlier the right infrastructure was not in place. There were very old servers, without redundancy. There was no proper storage space. It was difficult to expand and enhance any application. So, we completely moved to the private cloud using infrastructure-as-a-service," said D Vijay Kumar, Director-IT, The Akshaya Patra Foundation.
Moving to private cloud and virtualization
The foundation deployed Infrastructure-as-a-Service platform and migrated its servers, ERP, storage and other applications to private cloud with central servers at Bangalore and pan-India connectivity to the servers. This has brought in centralization, scalability and compliance for its wide operations, with near-zero downtime. The whole infrastructure including server, storage, maintenance, high availability, and backup is covered under IaaS.
The IT uses virtualization, which has saved hardware costs and led to easy upgradation. The virtual machines run as a redundant team on the servers, with high availability. All the servers, storage and internet are with complete redundancy mode and daily snapshot backup of all the data is taken and retained for seven days. The health status of virtual machines (VM) is consistently monitored by data center professionals 24*7 throughout the year. In addition, the IT has allocated a dedicated 20 Mbps bandwidth to the VMs. To secure the safety of data, a dedicated physical firewall for security services is also enabled.
To manage large supply chain operations, connectivity is crucial. The Akshaya Patra Foundation reaches across small towns and villages where internet connectivity may be low. The organization therefore deployed multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) and an internet lease connectivity line to datacenters and branches for a seamless transaction on ERP and other software.
Third-party ERP was implemented on all modules including procurement, daily production plan, production, supply chain, school enrolments and all financial transactions. The ERP solution provides a centrally managed solution that gives them visibility into all aspects of the process and distribution, thus saving time and resources, and facilitating growth. There is also a common integrated CRM for all fund-raising activities with billing activity, taxes requirements and more, which can be accessed on a single dashboard.
How has the new infrastructure fared?
The new infrastructure has helped the organization achieve its enormous task of supplying weekly meals to millions of poor students across India. Using private cloud and virtual machines, the foundation has now the ability to expand their infrastructure as and when they require. Also, all the transactions can be easily managed on the centralized ERP and CRM.
“The biggest advantage with virtual servers and systems is an easy expansion of any infrastructure requirement. It offers complete redundancy. With daily snapshot backup of the virtual machine and easy restoration, our data is completely protected. The IT is with international standards and this has given us complete peace of mind as,” told Kumar.