Growing Data, Shrinking Footprint

By Kevin Fitzpatrick  |  Posted 2010-02-04 Print this article Print

ROEL Construction implemented Virtualization and storage solutions that improved data center operations and would scale to meet its future needs, while providing the eco-friendly and cost-saving benefits of reduced power and energy consumption.

Growing Data, Shrinking Footprint

Our existing storage infrastructure was having trouble scaling to meet increased data demands. Difficulties with the storage infrastructure were causing performance to suffer, and project collaboration was becoming increasingly difficult.

In addition, the legacy environment required a significant amount of energy for powering and cooling. So the requirements of the business—handling enormous and growing amounts of data without disrupting performance—and the goals of our sustainable IT initiative intersected in the need for a new storage environment.

We looked for a storage solution that could scale to meet future needs, make data management easier, and provide the eco-friendly benefits of reduced power and energy consumption. Given the large volume of data being transmitted across each of ROEL’s five locations and 25 job sites, it became clear that we needed a new cost- and energy-efficient storage solution that would centralize storage and that could grow over time.

The benefits of both storage and server virtualization in terms of efficiency, hardware consolidation and energy savings seemed like the right road map for ROEL. So we assessed our existing storage area network (SAN) infrastructure, and after evaluating the different options on the market, we chose to implement a Compellent SAN in a VMware environment.

Persuading the senior management team to invest in a new storage and server environment was not difficult—once I explained that for the same price I would pay to upgrade our legacy storage system, I could purchase a new SAN to better manage data and support our eco-friendly practices. So we installed two Compellent SANs, and because of their iSCSI connectivity, we were able to save more than $40,000 at the outset instead of upgrading a five-year-old non-redundant Fibre Channel infrastructure.

The most dramatic benefits resulted from our ability to completely virtualize the data center. We were able to have four physical servers host 26 virtual machines, including file, SQL and other application servers, as well as Novell GroupWise e-mail and an e-mail archiving system. In addition to eliminating 22 physical servers, storage and server virtualization has reduced electrical usage for power and cooling by 80 percent, for a savings of $12,000 per year. Virtualization also eliminated the need for server upgrades, which would have cost more than $70,000.

Virtualization also reduced our cooling load from 4.5 tons to 1.5 tons, and extended the life of our air-conditioning unit. Finally, upon implementation, we submitted an application for a rebate and received more than $6,000 from San Diego Gas & Electric.

Being Prepared

Our prior infrastructure did not include a disaster recovery strategy, but the Compellent storage architecture made it easy and affordable to implement a disaster recovery solution. The primary SAN takes frequent snapshots of changed data, which takes up little space compared with copying entire volumes.

The snapshots are then replicated to our remote SAN using the Thin Replication technology. In the event of a technology failure or natural disaster, we would be able to recover the physical data and the VMware environment and start serving the company at our second data center site. Just knowing we’re ready for the worst helps me sleep better at night.

I also feel confident that in the best-case scenario, in which our business continues to grow, we are ready to handle the data growth that comes along with it. However, instead of having to project and buy storage capacity now, I can use the SAN’s thin-provisioning software to manage storage capacity more efficiently.

We don’t have to purchase physical capacity up front: We consume capacity only when data is written and install additional disk drives only when necessary. Thin provisioning gives us the flexibility to purchase data on demand and expand storage volumes with a few mouse clicks. When we grow, our storage grows—without a forklift upgrade.

Kevin Fitzpatrick has been with ROEL Construction for more than 17 years and has been IT director for the last 12 years. He has worked in the construction industry for more than 25 years.

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