City of Coquitlam rolls out services-oriented storage

The City of Coquitlam in British Columbia turned to storage virtualization to introduce a services-oriented approach to storage in order to deal with its growing online citizen services and application and database requirements.


The city supports a number of applications, like Oracle Financials and PeopleSoft, as well as citizen-facing online services like the community portal, which were generating an increasing amount of visitor traffic, said Darren Browett, technical services manager for the City of Coquitlam.


“It seems that whenever there’s an application upgrade, they need a bigger database,” said Browett of the application and database demands facing the technical services team.


The city has 21 IT staff across two groups, technical services and business applications, to support 15 buildings across three city campuses serving more than 1,000 employees, businesses and 125,000 citizens.


Besides having to support heavy Internet traffic on and other parts of the City of Coquitlam Web site, Browett said the increased use of other types of data like images was weighing down on storage capacity.


But while the City was in need of a way to manage and scale its heterogeneous storage environment, the VMware server clusters already in use also required upgrading, said Browett.


To address storage manageability, the city rolled out, in a two-week implementation, storage virtualization technology from Hitachi Data Systems Corp.


Browett said better uptime and system performance were the resultant benefits because adding more storage has not required a scheduled outage and therefore has not interrupted the applications in use 24-by-7. The city also put in new VMware clusters at the same time.


Although uptime and performance aren’t the easiest factors to measure, Browett said there has been a noticeable drop in the number of end-user support calls. “There are fewer calls to the help desk asking why my application is slow,” he said.


The Hitachi Universal Storage Platform that the city deployed allows for virtualization and consolidation of its storage environment and the ability to easily manage storage by adding new storage arrays or refreshing an individual array while maintaining others, said Chris Willis, senior director of solutions consulting at HDS Canada.


The ability to scale storage is a big issue for the city, which must deal with an incredible amount of data that is very diverse, said Willis.


One main driver behind storage virtualization, said Willis, “is to try to get heterogeneous storage under control. There’s a great deal of information and data that’s floating around in large organizations.”


The city’s very own 45 kilometres of fibre-optic network, QNet, of which the IT department has 36 strands to support city services, had been put to use to distribute storage systems across town in two data centres. Willis said having the foundation of an existing fibre optic network in place helped make the deployment easy, said Willis.


According to Dave Pearson, senior analyst for storage at Toronto-based IDC Canada Ltd., the benefit of storage virtualization to an organization like the City of Coquitlam that has minor subgroups each with its own storage solution is that they can take storage as needed from a larger shared resource.


It’s like having storage as a service from a common block of storage greater than the anticipated demand by any one department, said Pearson. “There’s no such thing as, ‘Department X has run out of storage,’” he said.


Storage virtualization, while a hot topic currently, still lags behind server virtualization, said Pearson. But, he added, adoption of storage virtualization most often follows from server virtualization.


But storage virtualization is trickling downstream from large enterprises to smaller businesses as price points go down and the technology matures, said Pearson.


Moving forward, Browett said the City of Coquitlam is looking to really take advantage of the fibre optic network available to them, as well as the added capabilities that the storage virtualization deployment affords the IT department.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau 

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