• Dramatically reducing power consumption by virtualising server estate

The Customer

Calypso produces 500 million soft drinks, fruit juices and freeze drink products each year. The company, which is based in Wrexham, North Wales, was set up in 1886 and remains an independent, family-owned business. It employs between 150 and 200 staff, of which up to 70 are IT users.

The Challenge - Severs with their own direct attached storage

The firm’s IT infrastructure had evolved over time to comprise 20 PC servers, each one of which had its own Direct Attached Storage and ran a different end user-oriented application or database.

IT manager Kevin Wright decided that, rather than spend more money on upgrading existing disk storage, the time had come to invest in dedicated storage equipment to deal with increasing storage requirements and to improve the company’s disaster recovery provision.

In the past, Calypso had simply undertaken nightly backups, the aim now was to introduce two SAN or NAS devices, one at headquarters and another at a second location.

Wright said: “I was originally looking at a Network Attached Storage device to fulfil our storage requirements but was introduced to the Netapp range of SAN's by Probrand. I liked the features these offered and the more I thought about it, the more I realised we were planning a good foundation for virtualisation so it all came together as part of the bigger picture. Virtualisation was already on the cards and I realised that we could do it in one hit.”

“It was obvious that virtualised servers were the way to go – 20 physical servers produce a lot of heat, consume a lot of power and take up a lot of space. There’s also the management side and the risk of hardware failures so it was a no-brainer.”

The Solution - Storage area network

Probrand advised that the most appropriate approach was to implement two NetApp iSCSI FAS2020 SANs that would have data synchronised between them every 20 minutes. The primary storage device had 3Tb of SAS storage disks and the secondary one 12Tb of less expensive SATA disks, which could also be used for data archiving purposes.

In order to keep project costs down, Wright upgraded three existing physical servers with extra memory and disks. Probrand then created three virtual machines to run Microsoft’s Exchange email and messaging applications, the SQL Server database and Citrix on the servers courtesy of VMWare’s VSphere 4 software.

“Upgrading the servers brought the costs down to make it viable. With NetApp, we wanted to fulfil our storage requirements as soon as possible, but we also realised that we could do VMWare quite cheaply on top,” Wright said.

The Benefits - Enabling data to be replicated in near real-time

“We have achieved our goal of enabling data to be replicated from one site to the other in near real-time, so it can be recovered quickly and efficiently following a system or even a site disaster or failure. This has cemented our business continuity strategy,” said Wright.

The new system has already proved its worth in disaster recovery terms. Even though a couple of hardware failures have recently taken place, VMWare’s VMotion software meant that it was possible to simply move virtual machines from the affected server to a new one without any loss of service.

“Virtual machines are just files that are stored on the NetApp so if something’s faulty you’ve got a copy stored on another NetApp in another location. We can now provision a new ‘virtual’ server quickly and, while the data might be 20 minutes out-of-date, the whole process is much quicker than recovering from disk backups,” he continues.

“Virtualisation of our server estate by 70% has without question reduced power consumption and time spent on administration and support. It has also unlocked IT infrastructure agility and continuity we never enjoyed previously.”

Wright’s aim is to consolidate and virtualise a total of 15 business systems onto the three hardware servers by the end of 2011, a task that he will now be able to do himself thanks to the knowledge transfer provided by Probrand personnel.

And such a source of expert knowledge is important to have access to, he believes, because “this isn’t something that you can get right doing a quick Google search”. As a result, Wright said that a key consideration when going down this route was to find the right organisation to work with.

“Probrand is an amazing partner. I realised quickly that they’re very competent in this area of virtualised servers and they’re creative approach to go beyond the brief has delivered value for money. I’ve been really happy with the support I’ve received and I can honestly say they’ve always been a joy to work with,” Wright concluded.