Covenant House finds a home for its data

The decision by Covenant House Toronto to implement a disaster recovery plan about a year ago would ensure that staff had continual access to the organization’s file servers that store information on children staying at the shelter.

In the event of a disaster, these mission-critical applications need to be “up and running within a matter of minutes to hours so that we can take in donations and keep the funding coming in,” said Covenant House Toronto’s information systems consultant Wendy Craig.

The solution for Covenant House was to work with Toronto-based reseller Interware Systems Inc. that combined its Total Enterprise Virtualization (TEV) – a modular approach to virtualization implementation – with DataCore Software Corp.’s storage virtualization software SANmelody as its foundation.

Covenant House’s storage infrastructure, according to Interware Systems’ senior partner Lak Gill, was such that “their storage was all over the place, they didn’t have any centralized storage.” The organization was running on old storage arrays that were quickly filling up, and moreover, storage had been over-allocated on some application servers.

Businesses often have badly-organized storage infrastructures as a result of trying to avoid being vendor-specific with respect to their hardware, said Gill, yet they have no tool to manage that storage.

“With the previous infrastructure, it would have been really tricky to recover from a disaster,” said Gill, adding that the only form of disaster recovery in place was offsite tape backup which, in the event of a disaster, would have meant reloading the operating system, finding a tape drive and reloading the data. “It would take days if not weeks to recover from.”

But before disaster recovery could be attained, the storage had to first be consolidated, said Gill, and SANmelody from the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based company was appealing for its hardware-independence. “That allowed them to purchase their own servers, their own backend storage and install the software on top of it to manage it,” he said.

Businesses are catching up quickly to the advantages of storage virtualization in their infrastructures, said Augie Gonzalez, head of the product marketing group with DataCore Software. “So most people realize that… to really reap the benefits of live migrations and failover of virtualization machines in these data centres is dependent on having a robust storage virtualization underneath it.”

In fact, said Gonzalez, that realization typically occurs in the form of a “two-stage epiphany” where the initial awareness happens in relation to the organization’s immediate pain points, but then is followed by another realization that the company can’t live without it and tries to spread its use into newer avenues. And, that’s what happened with Covenant House, said Gonzalez.

But through Interware’s TEV approach, businesses can also engage in server virtualization using either VMware Virtual Infrastructure or Citrix XenServer, of which Covenant House chose the former. Covenant House is in the process of virtualizing its desktops as the final stage of TEV.

Post-deployment with DataCore, should a disaster strike, the data is instantaneously replicated from the head office to the disaster recovery site so the 150 users at Covenant House can continue to access that information. “So if their head office was to go down for whatever reason,” said Gill, “we’re able to bring up their virtual servers at their disaster recovery site and give their users access externally to connect into their machines within a matter of minutes.”

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