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Canadian province adds IBM SVC to manage data growth

With data growing at 100% per year and staffing expected to stay flat, the government of Nova Scotia turned to storage virtualization to aid management.

With its data expected to double in the next year, the Canadian province of Nova Scotia's IT organization turned to IBM's SAN Volume Controller (SVC) to ease data migrations and day-to-day storage management.

For years, the province's Corporation IT Operations (COIT) department has been mostly an IBM shop, with IBM System p, x and AIX servers, a range of DS4000 arrays and Tivoli Storage Manager for backup and Tivoli Productivity Center for device management. But manager of data center services Kevin Tillman said the agency added SVC to a planned purchase of new DS4000 arrays last summer because of burgeoning data volume while staffing remains flat.

More of the government's records are being digitized in media-rich formats, and as a result data growth in 2007 and 2008 for Tillman's organization has been around 100%. Currently the storage capacity at COIT is around 90 TB, which Tillman said he expects to double again in the coming year. The COIT storage team has three administrators, a number that hasn't changed in six years.

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"We're deploying virtualization at all levels of the infrastructure, databases, servers and storage to keep up with the growth with a fixed budget," he said.

The SVC came in handy during a migration between a DS4100 array that had reached the end of its life to a newer DS4800. "Previously, that would've been a month's worth of work with some outages," Tillman said. "With the SVC it took a week with no outages."

Along with capacity, availability is also a metric that has become increasingly important in the government's data center. "We could have managed the migrations without SVC, but it would've involved a significant amount of overtime on off-hours," Tillman said.

It has become crucial for COIT to minimize downtime as its data has grown in importance, as well as volume.

"We very rarely take outages for any reason related to storage," said COIT's technical architect, Jeffrey Brunt. "Many applications that were 8/5 a few years ago have become 24/7," Tillman added.

While the storage environment remains entirely IBM for now, Tillman and Brunt said they may expand it to manage heterogeneous storage arrays in the future. "We're a government services organization, so we have strict procurement rules" requiring a bid process, Tillman said. "The tender process very well could go to another vendor in the future."

Regardless of what storage vendor his group uses, Tillman expects virtualization to smooth technology refreshes. "If we have to move to an 8 GB SAN, we can replace the back-end storage without making individual changes to each server," he said. "The key thing for us is no outages from the server point of view."


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