South Grampians Shire Council trades DAS for SAN

The council implemented Hitachi Data System's storage offering to deal with rapid growth

Victoria’s Southern Grampians Shire Council has overhauled its storage infrastructure, upgrading its direct attached storage (DAS) to a storage area network (SAN) from Hitachi Data Systems (HDS).

Prior to the deployment, the council was struggling with the increasing number of shire residents trying to access online council data, in addition to manage having no space for continued data growth and ageing hardware.

There was also a number of backplane issues on a number of servers, rendering them unavailable for data and information.

Using DAS, the council utilised RAID 5 for storage and RAID 1 for an operating system, with capacities dependent on the individual server and what it was being used for.

In addition to the advantages of a SAN in comparison to DAS, the council was looking at virtualisation technologies with plans to deploy VMWare’s VMotion for redundancy purposes. These issues prompted the organisation to go to market for a new solution.

Initial budgets and intentions to purchase a iSCSI SAN were quashed when the council was advised it could purchase a fibre channel SAN from HDS for a similar price, as a result of the Japanese end of financial year. An analysis of the cost and benefits to the organisation followed and HDS was chosen as the most appropriate option.

Southern Grampians Shire Council co-coordinator of information systems, Peter Barras, told Computerworld Australia the council also considered storage options from Hewlett Packard, IBM and Dell, as well as building up iSCSI storage space from standard servers and a number of hard disks. Despite this, HDS’s Adaptable Modular Storage (AMS) was chosen to manage data and eliminate previous backup issues.

“Host bus adapters (HBA’s) were installed in the servers after hours and the SAN was physically installed in approximately one hour. Configuration of the SAN and fibre channel (FC) took a few hours but after that it was a simple plan to migrate most servers into the virtual environment,” Barras said. “Shared drives were moved onto FC logical unit numbers (LUN) and within a few weeks we had a much more robust environment.”

“Configuration of the original HBA’s was a little harder with the software not working as expected. Understanding LUN’s and FC LUN Masking was a challenge but once mastered it was easy to move LUN’s around from server to server,” he said.

Additional storage space and another controller were purchased the following financial year, which enhanced reliability of the system and allowed us to continue to grow, however the council would not disclose any project costs to Computerworld Australia.

Since the deployment, storage is now centralised in a virtual space, complexity has reduced with fewer physical servers, both resulting in the decreasing of management related costs to the council. The new system has also proved more energy efficient with less power and cooling requirements.

Using the new system, the council is now able to deploy servers in a virtual environment, re-allocate LUNS to other servers in case of failure or maintenance and can script re-maps of the drives on the client computers for a smoother changeover process.

“Make sure you don’t accidentally assign a LUN to two different live Windows servers!” Barras warns other organisations. “It causes all sorts of issues and corruptions as Windows was never designed to share storage.”

On reflection, Barras said there should have been more storage purchased in the beginning.

“We very quickly ran out of space, added more capacity and then filled that too,” he said. “We completely misjudged the data growth as staff were previously very restricted in what they could and couldn’t keep.”

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