Server Virtualization and iSCSI Keep Small Business Running

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Small business face the same data storage, high availability and disaster recovery issues as their bigger counterparts; they just don’t have the same budget for dealing with them.

So when Washington Archives Management found an affordable and highly available SAN from DataCore Software, the decision was an easy one. Even in a difficult economy, companies still need to invest in their IT infrastructures to cope with data growth — and to be ready to take on new business when the economy recovers.

“Using a combination of Citrix XenServers backed by DataCore’s SANMelody, we were able to afford a shared storage environment with redundancy, replication and disaster recovery,” said Tom Radford, system administrator at Washington Archives Management of Fife, Wash., a 50-person company that offers information management services such as records management and archiving, media storage, document imaging services, e-vaulting and room file management.

The company was already a fan of server virtualization. VMware’s (NYSE: VMW) ESX hypervisor had been in place for almost five years. Two years ago, Washington Archives upgraded from ESX version 2.5 to 3.0.

According to Steve Parlee, director of services and senior systems consultant at Moose Logic, a Bothell, Wash.-based solution provider that manages Washington Archives’ IT operations, the company was running 10 virtual servers on two physical ESX servers.

The original infrastructure also included local storage. One server had storage on a direct-attached drive shelf; the other used internal local storage.

In mid-2008, Washington Archives experienced a hardware failure. While it didn’t affect day-to-day business operations — because Moose Logic got the ESX server up long enough to get an image of the guest back up on the remaining single server — it was clear just how vulnerable the IT infrastructure had become.

“We had no redundancy on the network. If any components failed, Washington Archives would be out of business until it was fixed,” said Parlee.

At that point, the company could do one of two things: stabilize the existing infrastructure or do some forward thinking and deploy new technology.

Citrix, DataCore to the Rescue

Radford knew what the company needed: an IT infrastructure that featured replication, redundancy, disaster recovery and flexibility at an affordable price.

A Citrix (NASDAQ: CTXS) partner and DataCore partner, Moose Logic knew about designing and deploying reliable, scalable, high-performance business solutions.

“We went with DataCore for a shared storage environment and XenServer for server virtualization,” said Parlee, who noted that DataCore’s iSCSI-based SANMelody features replication between two nodes and XenMotion, a feature of Citrix XenServer that allows an administrator to move guests between two pieces of hardware without service interruption.

Today, Washington Archives’ main office houses two physical XenServers and two SAN nodes with a total of nine virtual servers. The company also has business applications on a SQL Server that uses iSCSI to connect to the SAN.

The DataCore SANMelody software runs on HP DL180 servers that accommodate 12 internal 400GB drives each. The company bought a 2TB license from DataCore.

There is also a single SANMelody and single XenServer at a backup site.

The SANMelody at the company’s headquarters replicates data to the DR site. The SQL Server replicates to the backup site too.

The new project got underway in August of last year and was available in December.

“This isn’t new technology, but in the past it was too expensive for small businesses to afford because it used to be done with Fibre Channel only,” said Parlee, who said that Fibre Channel pricing would run in the $100,000 range for the SAN alone.

For about $97,000, Washington Archives purchased five servers and a switch, software licenses from Microsoft and DataCore, and a few other items, including Moose Logic professional services.

“DataCore runs on Windows Server and doesn’t require specialized hardware,” said Parlee, noting that the SMB repurposed one of its original servers at the DR site.

The IT infrastructure upgrade at Washington Archives improved data availability, disk utilization through thin provisioning, high availability, fault tolerance, replication, redundancy and disaster recovery.

The flexible SAN also provides scalability and flexibility as Washington Archives grows its business.

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Lynn Haber
Lynn Haber
Lynn works as an editor-at-large meeting with new and established channel partners in the IT and telecommunications ecosphere. She works to understand what motivates partners, vendors, and distributors as they navigate growth in a dynamic industry. Lynn has worked as a business and technology writer for magazines, journals, and online media, and has authored hundreds of articles on technology, communications, business management, employment and careers, industry, and products.

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