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IP SAN helps city serve community better

Installing an IP SAN allowed municipal decision makers in Ogden, Utah, to cut costs and free up IT admins to concentrate on other tasks, including projects that help make the city's streets safer.

The costs of running a city need to fit neatly into a budget. So when faced with revenue shortfalls and a constant battle with old technology, municipal decision makers in Ogden, Utah, took a hard look at the way the city was using servers and storage.

And, by installing an IP storage area network, they managed to both cut costs and free up IT admins to concentrate on other tasks, including projects that help make the city's streets safer.

"Like many other progressive cities, we adopted a belief that we need to be a leader in technology -- not because technology is great, but because we can use it to improve the lives of our citizens," said Jay Brummett, the city's chief technology officer.

As the city contemplated a change in its storage system, it had other IT priorities to think of as well. Several projects were under way, and IT managers didn't want to slow the progress of those projects. In addition, they didn't want to decrease the quality or quantity of services offered.

The city's storage goals included developing a solid disaster recovery program and providing for a data increase of about 1 terabyte (TB) over the next few years. They also wanted to move away from a directed-attached storage (DAS) model.

They searched for a network-attached storage (NAS) or storage area network (SAN) solution that would allow for scalability without requiring new servers when space on existing servers ran out. Ultimately, they settled on an IP SAN from Boulder, Colo.-based LeftHand Networks Inc. The SAN initially provided 1 TB of redundant storage but was later scaled up to 3 TB.

The migration to the SAN was painless, especially since most of the IT staff had a fair amount of expertise dealing with IP-based networks. Had the city gone with a traditional SAN, the migration wouldn't have been as simple, said Brummett, because the IT team would have had to deal with Fibre Channel and LUN masking.

As Brummett explained, "The storage virtualization technologies that are built in to the LeftHand product allowed us [to] make this essentially plug-and-play. We basically installed the LeftHand drivers, and we could then carve out volumes that were relatively transparent to the servers."

The migration met the city's needs -- and saved money. The cost per megabyte of storage with the old system was between 67 cents and 84 cents. After the LeftHand SAN was installed, costs dropped to roughly 25 cents per megabyte.

The move also saved on labor costs -- the IT department went from having 29 employees to 15, and it's providing the same level of service.

These savings let the city's IT managers turn their attention back to their No. 1 goal -- using technology to improve their communities. Some of the positive results they've seen include a decrease in crime.

For example, the city developed a system to track the location of every emergency services vehicle, which helps decrease the response time to urgent situations. Additionally, police officers now fill out reports on laptops and tablet PCs in their vehicles, instead of on paper at the station. The change speeds the report process and lets police spend more time patrolling the streets.

Ten years ago, Ogden had one of the highest crime rates in the region. Now it is among cities with the lowest crime rates.

City officials say technology has also helped improve economic conditions. Ogden offers computer education programs that target senior citizens who need jobs, as well as families considered to be at risk. Such programs help "build a vibrant community that is able to attract quality citizens and quality businesses," Brummett said.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Megan Loncto, Associate Site Editor.

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