Vancouver School Board eyes storage auto tiering

As the start of a new school season looms, the Vancouver School Board (VSB) is looking to automated storage tiered technology to help its systems cope with spikes in workload and storage demand.

Serving a staff of 8,000 and students numbering more than 50,000, the VSB network infrastructure is subjected to storage and workload demands that can rapidly peak at any given time during the school season. The IT department supports the email accounts of employees, human resources applications, financial systems, student records, the board’s Web site, as well as applications needed for various subjects and school projects.


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“Getting optimum use of our server network is critical in providing optimum system performance and avoiding system slowdowns or outages,” said Peter Powell, infrastructure manager at VSB.

Rapidly moving data workload from one sever that may be approaching full capacity to an unused server in order to prevent an overload is one of the crucial tasks of the IT team, he said.

“The biggest single request we get is IOs for storage, getting data on and off disks,” said Powell. “We normally need one person to spend the whole day monitoring server activity and making sure workload is assigned to the right server. That’s one person taken away from other duties that the team has to do.”

Recently, however, the VSB IT team has been testing the new auto tiering feature that was introduced by DataCore Software to its SANsymphony-V storage virtualization software.

The VSB has been working with DataCore for more than 12 years in other projects. The board based its storage strategy on SANsymphony-V back in 2002 when the IT department found that it was getting harder to keep up with the storage demands of each application. SANsymphony-V’s virtualization technology allowed the IT team to move workload from servers that were running out of disk space to servers that had unavailable an unused capacity.

The new auto tiering feature on the software would further automate this task, said Powell.

“In recent test runs we found that the system could be configured to monitor set thresholds and automatically identify available capacity and move workloads to unused servers when ascribed limits are reached,” he said. “There’s no longer any need for a person to monitor the system all the time.”

George Teixiera, CEO of DataCore, says the feature acts “like a triage for servers.”

“SANsymphony V can help organizations cut down cost,” he said. “Rather than purchase more disks to keep up with demand, auto tiering helps IT identify available unused capacity and instantly move the workload there.”

He said, some surveys indicate that many firms actually use only 30 per cent of their existing storage, but DataCore can help businesses use as much as 90 per cent of their existing storage.


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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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