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The move has allowed it to pay for the storage it uses rather than exist in a state of feast or famine, as was previously the case with its own largely NetApp storage infrastructure.
The university is located in the centre of Eindhoven in the Netherlands and currently has around 11,000 students and 3,400 academic staff and employees. Core applications are VMware virtualisation with around 300 virtual machines, Microsoft Sharepoint, Exchange and SQL Server.
Its nine departments are self-governing and previously bought their own storage products – which turned out to be mostly NetApp – that were then managed by the IT department.
This led to situations where provisioned storage went under-utilised or departments would not have enough capacity and procurement had to take place in a hurry, said ICT services strategy and policy officer Huub De Hesselle.
“Capacity planning was tricky. Sometime we needed to buy stuff quickly then we’d find we had more than we needed,” he said.
“The IT department sold internally to customers so the departments had an incentive not to use capacity. There would be a trend upwards in use then suddenly it would stop and we’d find we had a lot of unused capacity. Basically we needed a lot more flexibility.”
The university’s IT department went out to European tender and eventually chose Zadara’s virtual private storage array (VPSA), in which Zadara deploys hardware infrastructure at the university’s sites (a main one in Eindhoven plus a disaster recovery site) and capacity is increased and decreased according to the customer’s need.
Read more about storage-as-a-service
Total capacity tendered for was around 650TB. Zadara VPSA allows for block (Fibre Channel and iSCSI) and file (NFS and CIFS) access, allows customers to choose flash drives or spinning disk (SAS or SATA) and to specify for IOPS and throughput performance.
Data protection comes in a variety of Raid levels as well as snapshots and replication.
“We talked to Zadara about the specific characteristics we needed and how to get the best setup for our applications. We keep the dialogue going with Zadara and ourselves and keep them informed about our needs,” said De Heselle.
But why did De Hesselle opt for a service rather than to manage the university’s own storage?
“We don’t want to do the day to day management,” he said. “We’re a university and we don’t have storage as a core competence. We want it as a service, as a commodity.”
But is it cheaper than buying and managing its own infrastructure?
“Cost benefits? We have no exact number. But we don’t pay for more than we use,” he said. “Before, if we provisioned high and trends worked out differently, we would have to write off a lot of disk – and that was a risk.”