The VDC product is aimed at FTSE 500 enterprise customers in the UK to start, and it allows customers to build and provision server and storage capacity via a web portal developed by BT.
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BT already hosts data and applications for a wide range of UK businesses. The VDC product results from the development of in-house management tools used in those services to provide clients with security, billing and management features from a portal. It will also be used to provide data centre capacity for BT internally.
Craig Parker, head of global IT services propositions for BT Global Services, said the project goals were to reduce costs and standardise the server and storage architecture by extending virtualization.
"We've been doing virtualisation in data centres for years and it has saved money and total cost of ownership," Parker explained. " We still have a lot of manual activities so we're going with the VDC concept to virtualise more infrastructure and to automate provisioning."
So far around 200TB of NetApp storage has been installed at BT's Croydon data centre, with a second site launch planned for the close of December. European go-lives are planned for during the first quarter of 2010 with the Asia-Pacific region installing infrastructure later in 2010.
The storage infrastructure is based on clusters of FAS6080c filers with data tiered between Fibre Channel and SATA drives in a 70/30 split. VDC customers will get the option to decide tiering policies on the portal, which is linked via API to NetApp Operations Manager.
BT already uses NetApp, as well as EMC and 3PAR storage, in its data centres. It selected NetApp for the VDC project after looking at a range of vendors. The final list of potential vendors included Hitachi Data Systems, HP, EMC and Sun. 3PAR lost out on this project in an earlier round. "We were attract (to NetApp) by thin provisioning and snapshots and we did a lot of testing around the ability to share to lots of customers," Parker said. "NetApp's MultiStore gives the ability to carve a physical filer into multiple virtual filers and it passed the BT security tick." Aside from features, Parker said "price was also a key issue" but he declined to discuss specifics.
Looking ahead, Parker said, "We will continue with NetApp for this project. There are 22,000 lines of code between the portal and the management components of the storage infrastructure and that's not something you can do again lightly.