NetApp Facilitates DoD Data Migration

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Consolidating servers and data centers is a great way to cut support and infrastructure costs. IBM, for example, estimates that its own project of migrating from 3,900 servers to 30 System z mainframes will save the company $250 million in energy, software and support over the next five years.

But migrating the data and applications takes careful planning to ensure the move goes off without a hitch. When the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) went from 18 data centers to two, it used VMware’s virtualization middleware and Network Appliance’s Virtual File Manager (VFM) to consolidate the data prior to migration.

“We used to do file migrations manually using a lot of DOS scripts,” said Peter Amstutz, chief of network design at DCMA’s Carson, Calif., data center. “VFM saved us 500 to 1,000 hours of work in moving data.”

Slashing Server Support

The Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) is the Department of Defense’s contract manager, its 10,000 employees overseeing 300,000 prime contracts worth a total of $850 billion. It is responsible for seeing that those contracts meet the performance requirements and deadlines, while coming within budget. But it also has to make sure it is spending its own budget wisely, which led to the data center consolidation.

The project involved several actions. One was to reduce the number of servers by using VMware’s Infrastructure. DCMA began looking at virtualization in mid-2005. At that point, the agency had about 625 servers, and was replacing 200 of them annually. In November of that year, it started using VMware virtualization technology, buying 60 new servers instead of the usual 200. In subsequent years, it only needs to buy 20, saving the agency nearly half a million dollars annually, not counting power, cooling and labor costs. Earlier this year, DCMA upgraded to the latest version — VMware Infrastructure 3 — which virtualizes servers, storage and networking.

In addition to consolidating the servers, DCMA also needed to set up a common file system that would work across the enterprise. For this it created a File Area Network (FAN) using software and storage appliances from Network Appliance. DCMA has more than 300TB of storage.

When it consolidated its data centers, the agency went from 56 file and print servers down to two clustered NetApp Filers — the FAS3020C and FAS6070C — at each site: DCMA’s primary data center in Carson and another in Boston. The 3020Cs are used for file sharing and the 6070Cs are in a SAN. NetApp’s VFM was used to migrate the files from the file servers to the NetApp appliances.

Amstutz said it is much simpler backing up from two locations rather than 18. The agency uses backup software from CommVault and NetApp VFM to snap mirror the data to NetApp R270C boxes using SASand SATAdrives. Future plans are to use VFM to replicate the data between Carson and Boston for failover.

While consolidating the storage made it easier to administer, it introduced a latency problem. When there were 18 data centers, there was always one close enough to the end users to avoid any issues. But when users are more than 1,200 miles apart, latency starts affecting replication and file sharing, delaying traffic and causing resends. With only two data centers positioned at opposite ends of the country, DMCA installed WAN optimization appliances from Riverbed Technology to reduce the latency.

Virtualize Files First

The consolidation did come off as planned, but Amstutz said he would do things differently if he had the opportunity to do it over again. To begin with, he said it would have been better to use VFM to create a global namespace for all the files before the migration.

“Today each organization has a drive mapping that takes you to a certain file share,” he said. “This makes it harder to collaborate because if you are trying to share files with an organization at a higher level than you, you can’t see what each other sees.”

Even if DCMA hadn’t consolidated the data centers, he still would have used VFM to create a single virtual file structure. Nevertheless, even without the file virtualization, installing VFM was still well worthwhile.

“NetApp VFM has paid for itself just from the file migration alone,” said Amstutz. “But if I had it to do all over again, it would have been much simpler to virtualize our file systems first and then migrate.”

Article courtesy of Enterprise IT Planet

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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