Council opts for tiered Compellent SAN to cut staff and power costs

Hillingdon borough replaces Sun SAN with Compellent mixed FC/SATA arrays.

The London Borough of Hillingdon has overcome limits on power supply and storage capacity by implementing two tiered Fibre Channel/SATA SANs from Compellent Technologies to form primary and secondary/DR sites shared with the local health trust. In the process the project – which was run in conjunction with a VMWare server virtualisation initiative - has saved £50,000 annually on storage management staff costs and reduced its carbon footprint by 20% per annum.

Hillingdon Borough has a population of around 250,000 and runs services including schools, social services, waste collection and roads. Before embarking on the Compellent implementation, the local authority had 9 TB on a Sun StorageTek array. Not only were management costs for the Sun StorageTek array increasing as it neared capacity, but ithe array was also reaching its limits in terms of available power and there was no disaster recovery capability in place apart from holding backup tapes in an off-site location. Staff also had to manually prioritise storage provisioning.

Power is a major issue for us. Our buildings were designed in the 1970s and they can't support endless new technology.
Roger Bearpark
assistant head of ICTHillingdon borough council
"Power is a major issue for us," said Roger Bearpark, assistant head of ICT for the London Borough of Hillingdon. "Our buildings were designed in the 1970s and they can't support endless new technology. To get what we wanted in terms of scalability would have taken us to the ceiling of power available.

Hillingdon also faced the problem that even though only 10% of its data was mission-critical at any given time, the other 90% could not be moved to less expensive storage media because access is often required at short notice.

So last year the borough implemented two 30TB Compellent SANs, one at the main site and one located five miles away with a 20/80 Fibre Channel/SATA split with data moved between tiers by policies which take into account data age and type. Bearpark said that he is now looking at a three-tier set up using 15,000 rpm Fibre Channel drives and a 10/20/70 15k/10k/SATA split with the best performing drives supporting Oracle databases.

The borough has also implemented Compellent's continuous snapshots between the two sites – its primary site is Hillingdon Primary Care Trust's secondary and vice versa . Both can be managed from a single console and testing of DR failover and recovery can be automated. Compellent's automated chargeback feature allows operating costs to be resolved precisely for both organisations.

Bearpark's team looked at vendors in the SAN space such as Sun Microsystems, Hitachi Data Systems, HP, Dell and Pillar Data Systems. "Compellent topped the list in each category: ease of management, total cost of ownership, excellent environmental credentials and disaster recovery capabilities," Bearpark said. "The only other vendor that we looked at in detail was Pillar, but that was choice was made for us because we have a substantial NetWare environment and Pillar isn't compatible with that."

However, a spokesperson for Pillar Data Systems said that Pillar does support NetWare, but does not do it through multipath drivers.

The key benefits are savings in staff time of approximately £50,000 per year that have been avoided by doing away with long-winded manual storage management processes plus power savings of £6,500 per annum by being able to move less critical data to SATA drives. The borough has also reduced its carbon footprint by 20% over 18 months. Reducing storage and server power usage from 34kw to 1.1kw with tiered storage and cutting the number of servers from 94 to three played a major part in this.

Does Bearpark think that Compellent could do better in any area? "A lot of the management tools are very good," he said. "But I would like to see the ability for less deeply techy people in the IT department, such as first-line support, being able to use [them] for proactive monitoring, even potentially a dashboard they can use."

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