Council sticks with IBM for £150,000 SAN project

Dumfries and Galloway council opts for IBM SAN to support 50% cut in server numbers enabled by government-funded broadband connections to 150 remote offices.

Dumfries and Galloway Council has implemented an IBM SAN in a £150,000 project to support a consolidation programme which has seen the local authority cut its server count from 150 to 70 machines.

Previously the Council had direct-attached storage (DAS) in each of its 150 offices, plus some SAN capacity at its Dumfries base.

The Council – which employs 6,500 people at 150 sites spread across an area of southern Scotland – was only able to carry out the consolidation project after receiving state funding to connect to its remote offices by broadband. Following the award of funding last year, every school and council building now has connectivity ranging from 10 Mbps to 300 Mbps. This allowed the council to halve its server estate and boost the capacity of its shared storage with users accessing data by means of client/server or Citrix thin client connectivity to the central data centre.

This will give us, for the first time, the ability to manage the corporate storage requirements at a single location.
Graeme McIlorum
technology services managerDumfries and Galloway Council
"Up until fairly recently, we had particular infrastructure problems with the WAN," said Graeme McIlorum, technology services manager with the Dumfries and Galloway Council. "So we had storage in virtually every one of around 150 offices. Last year we got funding from the Scottish government for a Broadband Pathfinder scheme which has enabled us to have broadband going to every site. We were already using a SAN based on a 500 GB IBM FAStT500, but we decided to update this infrastructure in order to increase our storage capacity."

To support its increased demand for central storage, the Council opted for an IBM DS4800 array with a mix of Fibre Channel and SATA drives – Fibre Channel drives for Microsoft Exchange and Blackberry data, and SATA drives for general file stores and databases. Initial capacity was 2 TB which was increased to 4 TB when the Council upgraded its Exchange environment. The Council used IBM's Storage Volume Controller to migrate data to the DS4800 arrray and will continue to use it to manage storage allocation and data mirroring.

McIlorum said, "We are in the process of migrating the majority of our applications, and consolidating data from the remote sites to this central SAN and will be using about 10 TB of capacity when that is done. This will allow us to not only reduce significantly the number of remote servers but give us, for the first time, the ability to manage the corporate storage requirements at a single location."

McIlorum said that the choice to go with IBM was a relatively simple one, as it was the incumbent supplier of hardware at the Council. "We did look at several vendors, such as HP, Dell etc., but our server infrastructure is all IBM and we decided to stick with them on grounds of compatibility, existing hardware, the availability of consultancy and support, and the benefits of existing business relationships," said McIlorum.

The chief benefit for the Council's IT team has been to centralise storage rather than have 150 separate pieces of hardware in different locations. This has significanly reduced the maintenance overhead and allowed the Council to save about half a full time staff post.

McIlorum says, "It is in simplifying the infrastructure that the real benefit has come. Our storage was very dispersed but now it is centralised and can be managed from a single location and, if required, allocated dynamically using SVC. It has also enabled us to look at centralising backups, using existing Tivoli Storage Manager capability, and to develop a feasible business continuity/disaster recovery plan."

The Council now plans to implement a second SAN also in Dumfries using an IBM DS4700 with a higher proportion of SATA drives at a projected cost of around £60,000.

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