Getting a Handle on an Unwieldy Data Center

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Just 18 months ago, Rayonier Inc., an international forest products company, had a decentralized IT department across six locations and was supporting more servers than it needed, many of which were at end of life. The company’s IT infrastructure strategy had, admittedly, been driven by old school thinking.

Then things began to change. Like many businesses saddled with complicated, inefficient and costly IT infrastructures, the time had come to clean up old messes.

“We decided to centralize IT, create a secondary data center and bring in storage virtualization technology,” said David Nettles, director of compliance and architecture at Rayonier (NYSE: RYN), headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida.

In the process, the growing company also implemented server Virtualizationand solidified its disaster recovery processes. Still transitioning its IT infrastructure, Rayonier today has gained flexibility and is more nimble. In a nutshell, the IT infrastructure now meets the company’s business goals, said Nettles.

Rayonier’s IT transformation came at an ideal time, allowing the organization to capture the benefits of virtualization, data replication and more efficient and timely disaster recovery processes.

Server Explosion

With six locations and IT staff reporting locally, Rayonier’s decentralized IT environment led to server sprawl and a diversity of equipment with no big picture in sight.

“At one point, we had an explosion in IT that led to us having 266 servers for 1,500 users, or a five to one ratio of server to users,” said Nettles. The company had a mix of vendor equipment, including Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM. At the time, much of its storage growth, 20 percent to 49 percent per year, was driven by GIS applications.

Once the company began moving forward with IT centralization, a survey of the existing equipment revealed that 70 percent of the company’s servers were in the red zone, or more precisely, obsolete.

The new IT infrastructure plan, which included that everyone report to a single CIO, created a primary data center at the Jacksonville location and a secondary data center in Jesup, Georgia, the company’s manufacturing location.

Early on in the transition, Rayonier also outsourced operations and its service desk to a local company.

With the adoption of VMware (NYSE: VMW) at both data center sites, the company today has two VMware clusters. There’s a cluster of six HP DL380 servers running 50 virtual hosts in Jacksonville, which also supports 10 terabytes of storage and a three-node cluster in Jesup with five terabytes of storage. Rayonier had two SANs with Sun (NASDAQ: JAVA) Storagetek 6140 storage arrays, which currently sit behind the clusters.

The Next Step

Further into the IT centralization project, Nettles asked the company’s channel partner, Dimension Data, for a solution to enable data replication between SANs.

The first consideration was to use the native replication capability in the company’s Sun storage product. Option number one, however, had too steep a price tag, said Nettles.

Then the company learned about LSI Corp. (NYSE: LSI). After meeting with an LSI sales rep and getting information on the company’s StoreAge virtualization products, it was almost a done deal. But first, Nettles contacted two LSI references located in Florida for feedback.

“We were convinced that the StoreAge Storage Virtualization Manager (SVM) was for us,” he said, noting that solution had the right features for the right price.

With the help of its channel partner, LSI engineers and internal staff, Rayonier installed the StoreAge solution in both locations. The company purchased the StoreAge SVM, the primary appliance, and also licenses the StoreAge multiView, a low capacity snapshot application that enables the creation of multiple read/write point-in-time copies of volumes and can retain the copies independently and separately from the original volume.

Rayonier also licenses StoreAge multiCopy, for creating multiple physical copies of volumes; StoreAge multiMirror, fast data recovery utilities and uniform storage service; and StoreAge multiMigrate for the online migration of data from any storage device to any other storage device.

Today, the primary data center is all virtualized, with the exception of one former data center location that hasn’t been moved yet, while IT has yet to collapse and virtualize the company’s process information systems for manufacturing data at the secondary data center.

In the meantime, data from the primary data center in Jacksonville is replicated to Jesup and then moved to tape. Tapes reside on site in Jesup. Eventually, process information data will be replicated from Jesup to Jacksonville and then moved to tape and kept on site in Jacksonville.

A New Architecture

Moving from its old storage architecture of direct-attached storage (DAS) and tape drives at every site, Rayonier has seen a reduction in tape.

“We now use EMC NetWorker and two tape libraries, one at each data center location,” said Nettles. “We take fewer tapes off site.”

Storage virtualization, he said, makes it easy to allocate storage in the server environment and manage the storage. “We can allocate data to different tiers of storage,” he said.

The company is still working on tiering its storage but has fast drives for Tier I storage and slower SATAdrives for large GIS data files.

“We’ve gotten aggressive with IT,” said Nettles.

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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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