Wednesday 12 February 2014

Chatham House, home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, decides on DataCore’s Storage Virtualisation Software to attain a faster, agile and resilient IT environment

Leading Global Think Tank achieves High Availability with a dramatic increase of I/O throughput and Watertight Disaster Recovery - through the deployment of a software defined storage layer.

Chatham House, home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs global Think Tank, has standardised on DataCore’s SANsymphony-V storage virtualisation software. Famous worldwide for the Chatham House Rule facilitating free speech and confidentiality at meetings, the Institute promotes thought-provoking insight into international affairs through open debates, extensive research and analysis on the world’s leading topics.  As such, Institute staff and Associate Fellows undertake global research and analysis and require constant access to the extensive range of research databases and infrastructure applications. 

Paul Curtin, Finance and Operations Director at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, details the issues. “18 months ago, outages were becoming more frequent and a distinct problem. Sporadic performance was also an issue – with unreliable access and poor response times being delivered to staff from critical applications such as Exchange email or database mining. Whilst we had benefitted from the success of a consolidated virtualisation some years previously, it was recognised that we were being dramatically hindered by the existing underlying storage supporting the virtual servers.”

Enter DataCore’s SANsymphony-V software proposed by DataCore Gold accredited partner of choice to the Institute, SDT, to effectively identify and combat a number of frequent and untraceable disruptions that were happening on the previously running SAN solution.  SDT recognised that the data degradation and unreliability issues could be quickly stemmed through deployment of a software defined storage layer, whilst also providing a watertight Disaster Recovery solution. 

Andrew Wayman, SDT Project Manager on the installation comments: “Firstly we addressed the ailing performance issues by installing two HP ProLiant DL385 standard servers running two licences of DataCore’s SANsymphony-V in a mirrored synchronous format to form a centrally managed virtual storage pool from which the Institute’s 24 VMware’s Virtual Machines (VMs) could  draw disk.”  This immediately alleviated the previous I/O bottlenecks, as the multiple VMs running on the same physical servers could now access a readily available shared pool of storage. Indeed, as SANsymphony-V uses CPUs and memory as high speed cache - automatically optimising read and write traffic - I/O throughput is dramatically increased, hence alleviating the Institute’s unpredictable response times from frequent performance spikes. Interestingly, in this not-for-profit organisation where financial resources remain a key consideration, SDT were able to repurpose its investments using two HP ProLiant DataCore servers from the previous environment, along with the three existing physical servers.

Paul comments: - “Previously so unstable was the storage array, that we couldn’t even guarantee 24x7 access. The installation of DataCore’s SANsyphony-V software layer immediately enhanced the service so thankfully, the days of 48 hour downtime whilst we re-indexed Exchange email and addressed database corruption, have been totally eradicated.”

Watertight Disaster Recovery was the next milestone in deployment required due to the high profile nature and influence of the Institute on the world’s stage, together with its Central London location. To address the threat SDT recommended deployment of a third asynchronous SANsymphony-node, housed outside of Central London in a secure data centre hosted facility acting as contingency site. Within this managed facility, SDT utilises SANsymphony-V’s low-impact and space efficient snapshot technology to replicate data and applications. Andrew details: “Watertight Disaster Recovery is what every high profile organisation strives for. With an asynchronous deployment of SANsymphony-V replication services outside of the Central London risk area, into a secure, managed location, we have achieved this and continue to test its effectiveness regularly. We know from our full DR simulated tests, that we can have all assets, applications and data, back and running within a two hour window. “

In the back office, management under one single SANsymphony-V management console is also significantly easier for the Institute, with a central operational view of distributed resources on the SAN. With DataCore’s integrated set of advanced provisioning, data protection, and replication functions, legacy models and differing brands of storage devices are managed centrally as a unified group. Provisioning new VMs therefore becomes clicks away and non-disruptive; as is maintenance, which can now be planned, co-ordinated and performed by switching between nodes, meaning that no system downtime is required.

Paul concludes. “Together with SDT and deploying DataCore’s SANsymphony-V storage virtualisation software, a monumental shift in the efficiency of the organisation has been achieved, without the necessity of an entire rip-out and replacement. Not only has critical performance and considerable availability gains been achieved, but IT management is better controlled and facilitated. It’s one Chatham House rule that we are happy to shout about.”

About Chatham House
Chatham House, home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is a world-leading source of independent analysis, informed debate and influential ideas on how to build a prosperous and secure world for all. The institute engages governments, the private sector, civil society and its members in open debates and confidential discussions about significant developments in international affairs; produces independent and rigorous analysis of critical global, regional and country-specific challenges and opportunities and offers new ideas to decision-makers and -shapers on how these could best be tackled from the near- to the long-term.

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