NTS gets DotHill hybrid flash with tiering in datacentre revamp

The National Trust for Scotland has deployed a DotHill hybrid flash SAN with automated storage tiering to support a revamp of its IT systems

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has deployed a DotHill hybrid flash SAN with automated storage tiering to support a revamp of its IT systems from physical servers and tape backup at one site to near-fully virtualised with a disaster recovery site and automated failover.

The NTS is a conservation charity that protects and promotes Scotland's natural and cultural heritage. It has about 850 staff at its Edinburgh HQ and other sites around the country. Core apps on its IT infrastructure include Microsoft Exchange and Sharepoint, as well as Care CRM and several bespoke applications built for tasks such as remote monitoring of NTS sites.

Before the IT revamp, the organisation was totally dependent on about 60 physical servers with direct-attached storage (DAS). There was no secondary disaster recovery site, backups were not reliable and administrators struggled to manage staff storage limits, with data spread around many drives on separate physical hosts.

“It was a constant battle to free up DAS storage,” said Scott Newton, head of IT at NTS.

During 2014, Newton led an upgrade to a virtualised VMware infrastructure with shared storage provided by DotHill hybrid flash arrays mirrored over two sites for disaster recovery resilience.

Newton opted for VMware over Microsoft Hyper-V on grounds of cost, and because he particularly wanted VMware’s Site Recovery Manager (SRM), which allows failover and testing of virtual server environments at a second site.

“Hyper-V is only free below three VM nodes,” said Newton. “Above that you need a System Center licence from Microsoft. We wanted SRM from VMware, and it all worked out slightly cheaper than the Hyper-V route."

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Now all but three physical severs have been virtualised, with 75 VMs running on four hosts.

Netwon’s team looked at all the major storage array makers, but DotHill won out because its RealTier automated storage tiering – which moves data between storage media type according to usage – operates in near real time. “With most of the other storage suppliers, data is moved overnight or at least over the course of several hours,” said Newton.

The NTS has deployed a DotHill AssuredSAN Pro 5000 array at its primary and secondary datacentres, with 58TB of capacity on each. This comprises 2TB of flash, 14TB of SAS high-speed HDD and just over 40TB of bulk SATA HDD storage.

DotHill’s RealTier automated storage tiering analyses data on the fly and moves hot data to SAS and flash when rapid access is required. “The system looks at the block level,” said Newton. “If someone’s doing something in Sharepoint, it’ll move the blocks needed over to flash for the time it’s needed and not the whole of Sharepoint.”

He added: “We have storage now, pure and simple. We don’t get any user complaints over storage now, and that’s the difference. We also have rock-solid disaster recovery that we test and validate monthly with SRM.”

NTS has also deployed a DotHill AssuredSAN 3000 array with SATA drives at each site for backup. Backup software is ArcServe UDP. Data drops off the main production SANs when data is no longer in use. It is held on the DotHill 3000s for 90 days and then transferred to tape.

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