Case Studies

Learn more about the real-life successes of our business partnerships, highlighting their unique challenges and the strategies we used to help them achieve their objectives.

Managed Data Support Case Study

Helixstorm Helps Truly Nolen With Data Storage Issues

Truly Nolen hero

The Challenge

Truly Nolen did not have a SAN prior to DataCore, instead relying on direct-attached storage, which is still the case in some instances. The traditional approach to data storage was not working. We were not able to allocate more space to existing servers that were running out of space, explained Tokkaris. One of the key reasons for embracing DataCore initially was simply to allocate more space dynamically from the DataCore-powered SAN. Moreover, before DataCore, IT administrators at Truly Nolen were forced to do an image backup or remove the drives of a particular server, purchase new drives, install them and rebuild the server.

Apart form the fact that this is labor-intensive wasting the time of administrators and thereby incurring unnecessary costs, the traditional approach also wastes storage resources. DataCore saves money on resources that would otherwise be wasted, commented Tokkaris. When you deploy a new server and do not have virtualized storage, you commit storage capacity to that server that most of the time is excessive. You might undersize, but typically you oversize and waste disk space. In addition to the storage issues Truly Nolen was encountering on its existing, physical servers, the company also wanted to implement a fault tolerant SAN for business continuity and DR. After engaging with DataCore Premiere Partner, Helixstorm, Truly Nolen selected DataCore SANmelody to be the foundation for just that.

The Solution:

“We knew that DataCore could improve our high availability and serve as the lynchpin of a disaster recovery solution,” noted Themis Tokkaris, systems engineer, Truly Nolen. “However, even beyond capacity issues and disaster recovery plans, we were also thinking about virtualization in terms of our legacy servers. Instead of buying 10 physical machines, with a SAN in place we could virtualize those machines and leverage storage resource pooling or virtualization to serve storage to those virtual machines.”

Truly Nolen looked at no less than five other vendors before selecting DataCore, including LeftHand Networks, EqualLogic, EMC, and HP, among others. According to Tokkaris, When we compared all of the features that the other vendors were providing to DataCore’s SANmelody features, we found that DataCore’s software-based solution provided all the storage management, high-availability and disaster recovery features at a lower cost than the other vendors provide. SANmelody was the most cost-effective solution that we could recommend to our management team in order to get their go-ahead.

Having the SAN in place provided the foundation for Truly Nolen to begin a server virtualization project. IT administrators moved their applications to two physical servers virtualized by a two node VMware ESX server cluster, which replaces the legacy servers that have been retired. The company now has web services, databases, e-mail servers, etc. and the backup software running on virtual machines. We virtualized five servers and are maintaining and monitoring performance, noted Tokkaris. Slowly and gradually, we will add more. One physical server exclusively runs DataCore SANmelody storage virtualization software to perform the following essential services:

  1. Fielding all storage-related I/O from the ESX servers coming over iSCSI SAN connections.
  2. Aggregating disk capacity from drives connected to these two servers into a virtual storage pool.
  3. Allocating virtual disks (many of them thinly provisioned) from the virtual pool over the iSCSI connection. This shrinks allocation time to a few minutes and reduces consumption. SANmelody automatically alerts administrators when the free space in the pool hits a low-water mark. This is a trigger to add more physical disks to the pool before the remaining space is exhausted.

Truly Nolen has developed a disk-to-disk to tape solution by virtue of utilizing the SANmelody system. Two data pools make up a total of 2.5 TBs. One pool is for fast access SAS drives and another array in the pool comprises SATA drives that are used for storing less critical servers that require less speed. Backups are sent to those slower drives to be offloaded to tape. Since system engineers at Truly Nolen are using the SANmelody snapshot feature to take snapshots of the data volumes on the SAN for faster recovery or for testing purposes, these different drives allow them to offer different service levels from the pool. For example, they use the slower drives as destinations for online point-in-time snapshots, since those have less demanding requirements for testing patches and generating backup tapes.

Currently SANmelody is running SQL databases, Microsoft IIS Web Servers (6.0), dot-Net application servers, and the Windows Software Security (WSS) update services server. Next in line will be the company’s network management server, its centralized anti-virus server, as well as its production database server and email system. We will add more applications to the DataCore SAN over time, noted Tokkaris. Gradually we want to move all of the critical data of the organization specifically email and the customer management solution to the SAN for faster access. Currently its customer management database is hosted on two physical servers in a cluster by itself.

Truly Nolen engaged Helixstorm because of our industry expertise in the virtualization space and relationship with DataCore Software, said Aaron Schneider, Solution Consultant with Helixstorm. Our job is to find the best possible solution for our customers. We understood Truly Nolen’s needs from a storage aspect and helped the company design a centralized storage solution that would not only satisfy its immediate requirements, but scale as capacity increased. The SANmelody solution will easily support bolt-on’ functionality for disaster recovery and integrate seamlessly with VMware’s Virtual Infrastructure for a highly available, fully- redundant solution. Helixstorm is a Premier Partner with DataCore Software and an expert in virtualization, storage, high availability and disaster recovery infrastructures.

Truly Nolen engaged Helixstorm because of our industry expertise in the virtualization space and relationship with DataCore Software



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