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Gas firm uses Riverbed Granite to consolidate remote site storage

Sonia Lelii

When Jerry Vigil became director of IT operations at Bill Barrett Corp., he realized he lacked the technology resources and manpower to manage data at the oil and gas exploration company's three remote sites.

Vigil inherited aging, failing hardware at the Denver-based company's remote sites,

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which either had no backup systems or backup that didn't work well.

His solution was to replace what he calls a "site-in-a-box" setup of servers, storage and switches at each remote location with a Riverbed Steelhead EX WAN optimization appliance and a Riverbed Granite core remote storage appliance at Barrett's colocation site. The Steelhead appliances run Granite Edge software.

"Things were failing," Vigil said. "Performance over the WAN was slow, and we had angry users. We would lose data, and on top of that, we had outages. The previous IT team's solution was a site-in-box solution that included switches and servers for each site, and disk storage units with tape backup using Dell and Hewlett-Packard."

Another problem involved replicating data back to the company's colocation across the WAN. Vigil expected he would have to increase bandwidth to the remote sites, which had a single T1 line.

The company did a proof of concept to test the Riverbed Granite and Steelhead appliances at its Silt, Colo.-based remote site that run data to the colocation site in Denver 200 miles away. Riverbed Granite hardware allows users to consolidate and centrally manage remote servers and storage, which continue operations even during outages.

Vigil said the Riverbed products cost approximately one-third of the storage refresh the company would have required to keep remote sites running efficiently.

"Over time, we started tweaking the configuration, and we realized optimization benefit," Vigil said. "The [Granite] cache was a benefit. We started to cache in two places. We validated our backup in the colocation. Once we saw the benefit, we continued to push the limit of the data and tested [it] by taking down the WAN link to see what would happen. That remote site could still access data. Because of the cache, we still had the data if the WAN link went down."

Barrett now has Riverbed EX1160s for WAN optimization and VMware vSphere-based Riverbed Virtual Services Platform and Granite Edge in the three branch offices. It also has a Steelhead CX1555 for the data center and a Virtual Granite Core VGC-1000-U connected to a NetApp filer in its colocation site.

Granite allows the data to be stored locally, and manages storage and backups in the central colocation site.

"The data flows bi-directionally to the servers and the Granite core," Vigil said. "It manages the connection and the caching. We batted a thousand with this. We didn't have to increase bandwidth costs. I was able to increase performance for remote users and optimize traffic performance over the WAN. The idea was to handle the backups, but we got a disaster recovery plan in place as well. Now we have a blueprint to expand more remote sites."


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