Monday 8 July 2013

Massive engineering project linking Scandinavia to mainland Europe picks DataCore storage virtualisation to tier data and speed critical applications

Femern A/S, the managing company behind one of the most ambitious engineering projects connecting Scandinavia to mainland Europe, the Fehmarnbelt Tunnel, has adopted its SANsymphony-V to speed auto tiering of data and critical applications.


Tim Olsson, the IT manager gearing up to support the forthcoming €5.5 billion construction of the 18km immersed underwater tunnel, due for completion in 2021, said: "We are in the process of commencing 4 major construction contracts this summer to facilitate the start of the build of the Fehmarnbelt tunnel. The number of employees will start to escalate dramatically as we progress through the build; as well as the volume of CAD intensive documents and building designs and engineering specifications that will need to be accessed on the network."

Femern began the process of examining the present infrastructure and anticipating how it would scale as the construction progressed.

Within their Copenhagen data centre, Femern operated a Dell EqualLogic SAN that was reaching end of life with spare parts becoming increasingly hard to obtain and when new replacement drives did arrive, there were frequent incidences of premature failure. The organisation had already adopted virtualisation, with their critical apps running virtualised on VMware but they appeared slow due to disk I/O bottlenecks as workloads contended for the challenged EqualLogic storage. This was therefore not a time to consider allocating more disks, but an opportunity for an entire overhaul to an alternative software defined SAN and infrastructure.

"Not only was the EqualLogic box falling out of warranty and therefore coming with an increased high price tag, it seemed to have a lot of features that we never, or rarely, used. We felt certain that even if we considered an upgraded, latest EqualLogic box, that we would still be constrained by the hardware rigidity and lacking the impending scalability and flexibility that would be required to accommodate the various construction phases."

Femern consulted their day -to-day supplier of all IT solutions, COMM2IG, to make an official technical proposal on alternatives solutions to run in Copenhagen and on the construction sites and exhibition centre at the mouth of the tunnel in Rødbyhavn.

COMM2IG examined the existing environment in detail. Femern were running VMware's ESX for server virtualisation, but availability, ease of management and automatic allocation of storage were sadly lagging behind. COMM2IG grasped the opportunity to recommend the installation of SANsymphony-V software storage hypervisor to support the latest version of VMware's Vsphere delivering their tier 1 applications virtually. To help overcome performance issues, COMM2IG recommended that Femern incorporate flash-based Fusion-io, Inc.'s technology for their most important applications to achieve far faster speeds than from spinning disks and to overcome performance bottlenecks.

The software based solution - offering performance, flexibility and investment protection: Two SANsymphony-V nodes were implemented on two HP DL380 G7 servers. Each server was provisioned with two CPUs, 96GB of RAM for super caching performance boost and 320GB Fusion-io PCIe ioDrive2 cards for flash integration in the storage pool as part of a hybrid, automatically tiered storage configuration.

VMware's server virtualisation was upgraded to vSphere 5.1. Overall, the environment offered 50TB of mirrored storage based on HP direct-attached SASand SATA drives augmented by a flash storage layer. Use of the Fusion acceleration cards would be optimised through DataCore's auto tiering capabilities; reserving the more expensive flash storage layer for the most demanding applications; and ensuring that other, less accessed data, be relocated automatically to Femern's existing SAS and SATA based storage enabling a 1/2/3 auto tiered environment.

Results:Installation commenced with the help of COMM2IG and twelve months down the line, Femern are well placed to comment on the success of their software defined data centre. Most noticeable is the increased performance of their SQL applications which struggled with latency issues previously.

"From a user perspective, they used to experience slow response times and a performance lag from their SQL & Exchange applications running virtually on VMware. Today, and in the future, with DataCore in the background, the applications appear robust, instantaneous and seamless. We have achieved this without the cost prohibitive price tag of pure flash. That's what any IT department strives to achieve."

Olsson summarises: "As the data volumes increase up to ten fold as construction starts in 2015, intelligent allocations to flash will increase the lifespan of the Fusion-ioDrive and offset the overall cost of ownership, delivering less critical data to the most cost effective tier that can deliver acceptable performance. With this multi-faceted approach to storage allocation using DataCore's SANsymphony-V solution, Femern is able to manage all devices under one management interface; regardless of brand and type.  Given that DataCore has been robustly supporting VMware environments for many years, SANsymphony-V is viewed as the perfect complement, offering enhanced storage management and control intelligence. For Femern, this has manifested in reduction of downtime; adding new VMs; taking backups; migrating data and expanding capacity can all now be done without outages.

"What we have achieved here with DataCore storage virtualisation software sets us on the road to affordable, flexible growth to eliminate storage related downtime. Add the blistering speed of Fusion-io acceleration and we have created a super performing, auto tiered storage network, that does as the tunnel itself will do; connects others reliably, super fast and without stoppages," concludes Olsson.

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