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Danish tunnel builder Femern opts for DataCore storage virtualisation

Antony Adshead
Ezine

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The organisation overseeing construction of the 18km €5.5bn Fehmarnbelt tunnel between Denmark and Germany has deployed DataCore storage virtualisation software in place of its existing Dell EqualLogic array, cutting disk costs by around 75%.

Danish state-owned Femern’s IT systems will be used by up to 150 engineering staff directly, as well as numerous consultants and contractors who need access via VMware ESX to CAD drawings, specifications and workflow systems for the project, which will complete in 2021.

Denmark-Germany-tunnel-290x230.jpeg

In preparation for commencement of construction work on the underwater tunnel and an expected expansion of data, Femern examined its systems and found its existing EqualLogic iSCSI SAN prone to I/O bottlenecks and reaching end of life.

Tim Olsson, IT manager at Femern, said the organisation did not consider upgrading the EqualLogic array because of its complexity and the cost of buying disk.

“The EqualLogic array was at the end of its life and coming with an increased high price tag," he said. "We didn’t buy another one because it was too complex for our needs, with features we did not use, and that it locked us into buying only disks from EqualLogic.”

Femern consulted with its IT partner COMM2IG, which recommended DataCore’s SANsymphony-V storage software with Fusion-io PCIe server flash to boost performance for access to tier 1 applications.

Two DataCore SANsymphony-V nodes were implemented on two HP DL380 G7 servers. Each server has two CPUs and 96GB of RAM, plus a 320GB Fusion-io PCIe ioDrive2 card. Overall, there is 50TB of storage capacity based on HP direct-attached storage in SAS and SATA drives.

With the flash layer and the two spinning disk types there are three tiers of storage, between which DataCore automatically migrates data according to use characteristics to ensure data is matched as best as possible to the cost of storage it resides on.

Software-only storage adds flexibility

DataCore is a software-only storage product that customers can install on any suitable server hardware. It provides storage virtualisation functions that can pool disk on direct-attached storage or commodity or legacy arrays to create shared storage.

The market is dominated by suppliers that sell storage hardware bundled with their own controller software and operating systems (OS). Software products aim to break that link by offering storage software that can be deployed on commodity servers with standard disk drives to cut.

That was one of the chief draws of DataCore for the Femern IT department, according to Olsson.

“With DataCore, we can be more flexible in where we get our disks from," he said. "We can buy cheaper, slow disk or faster disk and make it available to our apps with DataCore. It’s a seamless way of scaling capacity. So, for example, when the HP arrays reach end of life, it will be a fluent process to migrate to the next physical media.”

Olsson estimated that buying DataCore plus HP direct-attached disk cost 50,000 Danish Kroner (about £6,000) instead of the DKr 300,000 (£35,000) a new EqualLogic array would have been.

Did Femern consider the possible extra work involved in a software storage product compared with a factory-produced array with in-built controller software?

“It took some time to set DataCore up with the switches and so on, but once set up it’s easy to add disk and make it available to the apps,” said Olsson.


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