Thursday 4 April 2013

Park Resorts Upgrades Data Centre Resiliency and Speeds up Application Performance Using DataCore and Dot Hill Solution

Park Resorts, the UK’s leading providers of family holidays with over 39 coastal parks, are using DataCore’s SANsymphony-V storage hypervisor solution running alongside Dot Hill’s Assured SAN Arrays to lead the great escape away from slow I/O speeds and unpredictable application responses.

Ajay Patil is the Infrastructure Manager responsible for the storage and virtualisation infrastructure throughout the group from the Hertfordshire head office. With vacation spend in a recessionary decline overall, UK based ‘Staycations’ have become a popular alternative to travel abroad in recent years and Park Resorts have enjoyed a 6% increase in annual growth year-on-year. However, as with the entire industry, costs need to be realistically contained to facilitate growth, maintain competitive edge and ensure future scalability.

As it was, nine months ago, Ajay noted issues in the existing storage infrastructure with hardware falling out of warranty and a notable decrease in the performance of applications running on virtual machines (VMs). For the user, this would manifest in poor performance of applications and I/O bottlenecks leading to unpredictability when querying the company database and a reduction of productivity at peak times. Ajay commented: “Whilst a brief delay in inputting a holiday booking or ordering an extra activity onsite may not seem critical, vacation time is so precious and the environment so competitive, that we want to keep the whole Park Resort experience hugely positive, from the moment a holiday is considered to returning the keys on departure.” Keen to facilitate a solid and reliable solution that would be future-proofed for years to come, Ajay called upon trusted storage & virtualisation partner, NCE, to provide independent advice and latest recommendations.

NCE Solution Re-engineers the Park Resorts Storage Infrastructure with Performance, Agility and Scalability
Having successfully virtualised their server room with VMware some years prior, Park Resorts remain fully aware of the compelling benefits of virtualisation to achieve higher service levels through reduced server overhead. NCE undertook a full mapping of the existing environment in order to identify the performance gaps. Ajay explains, “Our key requirement was to ensure that we put in place a foundation that would not only deliver on our immediate requirements for increased performance and capacity, but would allow us to scale as the business applications, user demands and data sets all continue to grow in the future.”

Resilience, performance enhancement, business continuity were critical success factors, with NCE suggesting additional offsite Disaster Recovery reutilizing legacy storage. They also recommended installation of the latest version of the DataCore’s storage hypervisor with small factor, but high performance, Dot Hill arrays. As Ajay notes, affordability remained a critical acceptance item. “We had to maintain a balance between the features that we needed and the features that although were interesting and attractive, would simply never be used. Reassuringly, the approved solution retained a realistic TCO price point.”

Now there are two DataCore SANsymphony-V virtualisation nodes providing synchronous mirroring for true resilience running at the Hemel Hempstead site. The two nodes are based on Dell R720 Servers running Microsoft Windows Server software. These nodes, combined with a pair of Dot Hill Assured SAN 3000 Arrays for disk-to-disk data protection, form the backbone of the storage solution. The Dot Hill Assured SAN 3000 rack mounted Arrays each offer Park Resorts approximately 4TB of usable storage through provision of Small Form Factor (SFF) 2.5” 15k rpm drives, attached directly over high performance Fibre Channel to the QLogic HBAs in each of the nodes. Both the DataCore Storage Hypervisor and the Dot Hill Arrays arrived ready, and technically certified, with VMware vSphere v5.0.

Full Disaster Recovery and Remote Site failover is provided, using offsite replication over IP to a third DataCore SANsymphony-V Storage Virtualisation node housed some 30 miles away offering asynchronous mirroring. Disaster recovery was made affordable using one of the reutilized legacy storage arrays, with the storage hypervisor running on a Dell R710 Server running Microsoft Windows Server software.

Consolidation and reduction of resources:
Even though Park Resorts had used virtualisation for many years, the knock-on effect of consolidation of footprint, resources, and carbon efficiencies still resonates with the small form factor offered in the solution. Ajay comments, “Onsite, it’s about maximizing every cm of floor space and with the scalable 2U 24bay rack and the transparent software hypervisor layer reducing the need for additional storage hardware, we once again see that our footprint has been dramatically reduced. That’s a great feeling and a significant reduction in resources and ongoing management.”

And looking further afield, Ajay reflects: “With the new infrastructure, we have successfully taken Park Resorts into the next generation of virtualisation efficiency, overcoming the user issues of slower performance of our Microsoft SQL database and eradicating I/O bottlenecks in the process. We know that we have a scalable solution that meets all of our objectives both now, and in the future.”

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