READING, UK. – April 1, 2011 – DataCore Software, the industry’s premier provider of storage virtualization software, today announced that MittMedia AB one of Sweden’s largest media groups, is using DataCore’s software to successfully provide business continuity across its six regional media companies and 18 local newspapers.
Transmitting reliable information and data is the lifeline of MittMedia’s core business; yet with such a large geographically spread Group, comes the problems associated with running multiple data centres across multiple departments; disparate islands of information; risks to business continuity; and a sprawled and difficult to manage environment. During the planning stages, the Group took the decision to centrally consolidate branch server rooms into two primary data centres, one at Sundsvall, and the other at Gävle for Disaster Recovery purposes, some 200km away, linked by 200 Mbit/WAN connection. Reaching this decision allowed the Group the luxury of remapping the whole environment to become as effective, centralized and protected as possible. This entailed virtualization of the storage alongside the upgrade of the existing virtualized servers to the latest version of VMware.
Per Olofsson manages the server environment for the entire Group. Embracing the challenge of consolidating the data centres, Per also viewed it as an optimum opportunity to analyse the server growth and realistically analyse the existing storage and to address imbalances with new virtualized shared storage available from a central pool as and when needed.
Previously, storage for the group was effectively being allocated via an iSCSI NAS NetApp storage controller and HP EVA disk arrays, but Per had distinct scalability concerns with increasing data growth rates of around 50% year on year (fuelled in part by growth of high quality digital images and recordings). Upcoming consolidation was another primary concern, posing questions of management, resource utilization, replication, Disaster Recovery and site recovery between the primary data centres.
Sundsvall and Gävle were elected to be the primary data centres. The Network Manager at the Sundsvall facility was already running software storage virtualization through DataCore’s storage virtualization software, in a synchronously mirrored configuration to secure the VMware servers locally. Per takes up the story: “DataCore’s software was then not well known in Sweden but it gave the Sundsvall facility a way to easily allocate and present secure storage to the 40 VMware virtual servers, seamlessly securing both path and application – this provided a great internal reference point for the suitability across the rest of the group.“We were looking to address several potential scenarios in one hit – consolidation; high availability within the sites and business continuity between the two sites; thin provisioning of storage; easy management and lastly optimisation of existing storage on the estate.”
Five year plan highlighted risks in ongoing disk purchase and management:
Atea are the Groups trusted advisors for all storage issues and were instrumental in mapping out the future virtualised environment for the group. They suggested that the consolidation would provide an ideal point to upgrade the VMware servers and implement business continuity for the servers and their critical applications in one swoop. At the same time, Atea and MittMedia embarked on an interesting exercise that examined the cost of ownership of storage and predicted the five year growth rates. On one hand, with storage rising exponentially and the cost of single disks going down, the temptation could be to throw more disks at the problem. What MittMedia recognized though with this approach is that it would become impossible to manage that much physical disk. In addition, the HP EVA systems that were already in place were falling outside of their maintenance, and although tempted by the trade in price offered by the hardware vendors, Per knew that the ongoing ‘Rip and Replace’ mentality had seen its day. Indeed, Atea recommended that some of the existing hardware, the HP EVAs, were able to be re-purposed into the new environment. In addition, they recommended the upgrade of the servers to VMware’s latest release and the implementation of two DataCore nodes for 16 TB of disk capacity, providing High Availability by synchronous mirroring and Disaster Recovery by replication between the sites. Implementation was straightforward with the team working closely with Atea’s engineers, coupled with previous knowledge of the DataCore solution.
With DataCore successfully installed and running in a mirrored configuration across both sites, the team began the upgrade of VMware servers, working largely without requiring external assistance and avoiding downtime (previously upgrading machines would take a few hours with each machine being taken offline. With DataCore, the mirrored copy takes the workload whilst mirroring the volumes at block level and the migrated machine is then bought seamlessly back online). It’s not just maintenance where DataCore’s virtualization shines – day to day management of the infrastructure is now encapsulated in one easy to use, Windows based management interface.
Server consolidation remains ongoing with MittMedia hoping to bring their current mix of 350 physical and virtual servers to a more manageable 200 virtual servers holding the business critical applications of File share, Print, Microsoft Exchange; Oracle & SQL databases and ERP systems.
“Full peace of mind and a boost to performance ”
After more than a year of having storage and servers virtualized, Per reflects on the significant changes that the consolidated environment has achieved. He notes, “It is not just noting the advances to features, it’s bigger than that – what we have achieved here is the ultimate confidence that we are now secure, highly efficient and achieving more performance. It is difficult to put a price on that peace of mind”
Initially skeptical that performance of the critical apps, especially the Oracle and SQL databases would be improved, Per is surprisingly pleased with the results gained as DataCore storage virtualization uniquely uses its own caching technology rather than committing to disk: “We didn’t think there would be a tremendous boost to performance by virtualizing both server and storage and it wasn’t the primary consideration, but it certainly has been a welcome by-product, with the applications demonstrating better performance than that provided by local disk.”
Per concludes, “With DataCore, the future of our technology shifts up a gear – what we have here is a solution that not only provides us an highly available infrastructure, but it gives us a flexible template from which to seamlessly add new applications, servers, updates without downtime or great investment.”
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