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The move came as Lawlords found its ageing IT systems lagged behind requirements in the legal sector, particularly those stipulating adequate disaster recovery planning and provision.
Lawlords has its main IT department in Manchester, with a secondary site in Carlisle, plus offices in London and Liverpool that connect via Terminal Services.
The firm had been running physical servers with direct-attached storage (DAS). Backup was by tape with servers restored from bare metal, which took around two days.
IT manager Stuart Taylor said: “We had a single point of failure and, with the company growing at a fast rate, the IT wasn’t [up to scratch]. We needed to change and we wanted some form of virtualisation.”
“We had no disaster recovery provision, but were getting tenders from the public sector for which it was a major requirement. They would ask, ‘If you lost a site how long would it take to get it back up?’”
Taylor considered traditional storage from the likes of EMC, NetApp and Dell, but concluded that buying discrete elements of the IT stack – servers, storage, networking and WAN optimisation, for example – was likely to cost a lot more than getting it all in one package.
That’s when hyper-converged infrastructure became attractive.
Read more about hyper-converged infrastructure
- Hyper-converged storage/compute, such as IBM’s modular xSeries, poses a threat to standalone SAN/NAS in the datacentre.
- St Richard’s Catholic College deploys Scale Computing hyper-converged HC3 clusters to get log-in times down from more than two minutes to 30 seconds, saving £200,000 in the process.
Hyper-converged products combine compute and storage in one box with virtualisation capability. They have emerged in recent years as competition to discrete server and storage products, with key suppliers including Nutanix, Scale Computing, Simplivity and Vmware’s EVO:Rail.
Simplivity deploys as a virtual machine on commodity x86 server hardware, either as an OmniCube appliances or as OmniStack software pre-installed on approved server hardware. The hardware supports VMware, Hyper-V and KVM hypervisors.
Lawlords opted to deploy Simplivity’s hyper-converged hardware after seeing it at a VMware users group meeting.
It implemented two Omnicubes at its Manchester office with a total of 7TB of storage and one Omnicube at Carlisle with 4TB.
Backup is hourly at each site to local disk. In the evening, Manchester then backs up to Carlisle and Carlisle to Manchester.
Hyper-converged infrastructure is a relatively new phenomenon. Did Taylor see it as a leap in the dark at all?
“Yes, we had concerns. It was almost a risk. I was concerned about the on-board compression. Would there be corruption to restores? Also, cache is provided via SD cards and I was concerned about the use of SD for large amounts of data and the potential for corruption.
“But I sought assurances from Simplivity, and was given examples of organisations that had run their products successfully,” he said.