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VMworld: Bank, brewer trust production data on SANs to virtual servers

First National Bank and Heineken implement virtualization projects that take them from from no networked storage to SANs with virtual servers, solid-state drives and disaster recovery.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Storage shops are increasingly using virtual servers for production data now that they've become familiar with the technology and more comfortable using it, said administrators at VMworld 2010. Administrators from First National Bank (FNB) in Pennsylvania and Netherlands-based brewer Heineken provided details about their evolution from no networked storage to SANs, virtualized production servers, and sophisticated data protection and storage array technology within a few years.

First National Bank, which has $9 billion in assets and 300 branches in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee and Florida, began a virtualization project last year to improve data protection and make it easier to integrate acquisitions.

"We knew we needed a SAN, and we knew we needed virtualization," said Brian Diegan, vice president of network services at FNB. "The business reason was that we'll improve our backup and recovery capability, and be able to scale and grow the business."

Diegan said FNB had 400 file servers and 13 backup systems before standardizing on EMC Clariion CX4-240 SANs, VMware and CommVault Simpana 8 for backup in early 2009. "One person on our team did nothing but backups," he said. "Now he carves out LUNs, builds virtual machines and does much more productive things."

He said before the overhaul, it took 90 hours to back up one server and a week to restore data from the backup. Now it takes less than 24 hours to back up the server, and FNB has reduced nightly differential backups from 24 hours to two hours.

Diegan said he has approximately 80 virtual machines and has started testing virtual desktops for the bank's branch tellers.

FNB decided on a SAN first, said Diegan, and the choice came down to EMC or Dell EqualLogic. He said EMC's Fibre Channel won out over Dell's iSCSI, but it was a tough choice. "Five network engineers went out to a two-hour lunch to decide," he said. "We debated about Fibre Channel and iSCSI, and it was a heated discussion. I said, 'We only get to do this once, we have to do it right.' In the end it was a matter of scalability with the Fibre Channel."

FNB installed two 50 TB Clariions, one at its primary site in Hermitage, Pa., and one at a secondary site in Johnstown, Pa.

The bank's choice of a backup vendor was a bit of a surprise, especially the way it was made. "EMC actually recommended CommVault," Diegan said. "We needed block-level deduplication [EMC had not yet acquired Data Domain] and we had Linux software that EMC didn't want to touch." FNB backs up to its primary data, replicates to the secondary site across a DS3 line and then sends to tape once a week. "We have 30 days of data on-site, 30 days off-site, and a tape copy," he said.

Diegan said FNB gets a deduplication ratio of between 82% and 89%, depending on the data. That lets the bank replicate data without adding bandwidth.

First National Bank also uses 3 TB of solid-state drives (SSDs) on one array to improve performance for one business application that ran poorly before adding the SAN.

Heineken swaps HP for Compellent, goes mostly virtual

Heineken has virtualized 60% of its servers and the goal is to virtualize 90% of them by 2012, said virtualization team lead Mike Robers. He said Heineken has 219 virtual servers and 121 physical servers at its two main sites, with 106 production servers virtualized. Robers said he began virtualizing production servers in 2007 -- three years after he began using VMware -- after his team gained confidence with the technology. "Our server administrators were scared to move production data on VMware," he said. "In 2006 we started virtualizing non-mission-critical servers and put mission-critical data on virtual servers in 2007."

Heineken has changed SANs several times since it began virtualizing with VMware. It started with Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. EVA 5000s at data centers in Zoeterwoude and Den Bosch in the Netherlands as it collapsed from 12 server rooms. Robers said performance and scalability problems prompted an upgrade to an EVA 8000 in 2006, but that didn't solve performance problems. Robers said high support costs, as well as a lack of support for the latest VMware and operating system versions, native replication and reporting tools, prompted the brewer to look for a new vendor.

Heineken switched to Compellent Storage Center SANs this year, and is scheduled to complete the migration from the EVA on Monday. Project manager Lucien de Konink said performance on Compellent is more than twice as fast, and he has more capacity but fewer disks because of solid-state drive support. Heineken has 45 TB in Zoeterwoude and 17 TB in Den Bosch. Heineken's EVA was 100% Fibre Channel, but de Konink said 5% of the capacity on Compellent is SSD with 72% Fibre Channel and 23% SATA. He expects 95% of the disk he adds going forward to be SATA.

Robers and de Konink said they also liked Compellent's reporting, compatibility, replication, 24/7 support and solid-state drive option. The replication will come into play when Heineken sets up a disaster recovery site next year. "We needed replication for business continuity," de Konink said.

Robers said he also plans to start backing up to disk next year. Heineken is looking at EMC's Data Domain deduplication appliances, and hopes to make a decision and implement disk backup in the first quarter.


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