Saskatoon gets real success with virtual storage

The ripple effect of data growth poses a huge challenge for IT departments tasked with maintaining availability and performance, while doing more with less.

And it’s a challenge the City of Saskatoon experienced…big time.

Information management, for the city, used to mean frequently and laboriously moving data between disparate servers and storage systems.

That was before the city “virtualized” its storage system last year. (Storage virtualization involves treating storage as a single logical entity regardless of the hierarchy of physical media that may be involved or may change).

The virtualization project was launched using a combination of IBM’s Enterprise Storage Server and TotalStorage DS4300.

The technology allowed Saskatoon to pool its storage capacity and allocate it across servers as required, said Peter Farquharson, technology integration manager for the City of Saskatoon.

“We, like everyone else, have this non-stop growth of data,” said Farquharson. Storage virtualization, he said, has enabled the city to harness new storage media – out of a common pool – to accommodate ever-increasing requirements.

The data centre, he said, stores all of the municipal government’s information, from financial and land ownership records to utility billings. With storage virtualization, data managers are now able to move those data from one storage device to another, Farquharson said.

For the City of Saskatoon, virtualization not only meant a more flexible storage system, it has also led to cost-savings such as reduced employee overtime.

The technology has also enabled the city to classify data into two storage classes: higher speed and lower speed. Archived data, for instance, is placed on lower performance disk drives, so servers are optimized and resources used more efficiently, said Farquharson.

Virtualization enables you to take large resources and share them in a more flexible manner, as well as aggregate other resources together, according to Charlie Andrews, director for TotalStorage marketing at IBM Corp., based in Armonk, NY.

Reduced cost of ownership is one of the big benefits of software virtualization , according to Andrews. As virtualization supports multiple vendor platforms, it enables you to pool different assets, and simply and quickly allocate resources to a specific application, he said.

Specifically, he said, IBM’s TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller gives the systems manager a consistent, simplified and high-level view of information, regardless of diverse technologies that are underneath the system.

“Our objective is to do (virtualization) in a multi-vendor, heterogeneous environment,” Andrews said.

Improving storage capacity utilization translates to huge savings, said Andrews. IBM’s TotalStorage Productivity Centre does just that. It monitors the performance of storage devices and detects if the database is running out of space.

According to Andrews, TotalStorage Productivity Centre works with automated elements to allocate more space and dynamically expand available space.

Prior to virtualization, IBM pioneered logical partitioning (LPAR) capabilities within some of its DS8000 systems that reduced the need for separate storage systems. This innovation provided the roadmap for virtualization.

Recently, the company announced Cisco Systems Inc. will be deploying IBM’s storage virtualization software for its Cisco MDS 9500 Series of Multilayer Directors, which deploys high performance storage area networks.

Related links:

Users look for ILM, virtualization at SNW

IBM brings high-end storage functions to midrange

IBM enhances virtualization software

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