Data lockup

SAN solution helps Georgia Juvenile Justice avoid storage, server woes

Project Overview

Project: Data storage, management upgrade.

Agency: Georgia Juvenile Justice Department

Partners: EqualLogic Inc. and VeriStor Systems Inc.

Goal: To consolidate the department's data and make it easier to manage.

Obstacles: With a limited staff, the department needed a solution that was easy to manage.

Solution: The customer selected storage-area network technology that runs via standard Ethernet protocols.

Payoff: The department saves time and manpower in maintaining its data. The system also makes sharing the data easier.

As staff, data retention requirements and critical applications grew at the Georgia Juvenile Justice Department, it became clear to officials that they needed a better way to manage data.

More capacity was needed on the network, too, said Doug Engle, chief information officer of the department.

"Tape backups were taking over 12 hours a day," Engle said. "The need to be constantly locating and administering additional data storage for file and e-mail servers became very time-consuming for our network administrators."

Implementing storage-area network technology proved to be the answer to the
department's problems. SAN devices consolidate data and their only function is to store information.

To address these needs, VeriStor Systems Inc., a systems integrator in Duluth, Ga., selected technology from Nashua, N.H.-based EqualLogic.

"By adding the EqualLogic storage-area network, we have been able to perform backups in less than eight hours, reconfigure storage locations easier and add storage to our network quicker," Engle said.

The SAN technology also helps provide the data storage necessary for the department's juvenile tracking system, an application used by staff members working with juveniles.

The system is used to collect data and help manage the placement of juveniles, and assess and diagnose their behavioral, medical, educational and mental health needs.
The department's secure and residential facilities never close, so the tracking system, file servers and e-mail needs to be always available and operating.

Having a system that is complex and time-consuming to maintain is a common issue many public and private organizations face, said Ashby Lincoln, VeriStor's president.

"The days where organizations have to call the manufacturer to make a bin file change, and somebody shows up five days later to do it?people have grown tired of that," Lincoln said. "Customers want the ability to manage data themselves."

The Georgia Juvenile Justice Department had a typical setup with servers running applications and storing data. The growth of files, e-mail and databases brought a constant need for more storage. Normally storage directly attached to servers results in resources being trapped behind individual servers, impeding data availability.

Consolidation in a SAN helps avoid those issues, but traditionally, the most common choice for a SAN was Fibre Channel.

Instead of Fibre, EqualLogic uses Internet SCSI, or iSCSI, as the network protocol, which lets it be installed on an existing Ethernet network.
"The department was interested in a consolidation play to minimize complexity and allow them to manage their storage in a centralized way," said John Joseph, EqualLogic's vice president of marketing.

Another benefit was scaling back costs by reducing individual server maintenance and management expenses. When the department upgraded storage or performed preventive maintenance on standard servers, it removed and replaced disk drives with newer devices. Then each server was recommissioned and its applications put back together again, a costly and labor-intensive task.

The department had about 50 Intel-based servers running the Microsoft operating system with SQL Server and Exchange Web-based applications. Each sever was independently configured with its own storage attached to it.

Often they were doing either nightly or weekly backups, which they found to be overwhelming with the limited staff they had.

Because the EqualLogic technology doesn't require Fibre, that meant the staff didn't need Fibre training to use it.

The new system also makes it easier to share data. A SAN with iSCSI is based on Ethernet, just like the Internet. That simplifies sharing data across geographies.
"What we've done by installing EqualLogic's product is we've extended a very friendly, very familiar highway system down to storage which now makes the sharing of that storage even simpler," Joseph said.

The system essentially boils down independent islands of storage to a consolidated storage footprint making it easier to manage and scale. It creates a pool of storage that can be viewed and accessed by more than just a computer residing next to the data.

In the Georgia project, VeriStor had to install standard, commercial Ethernet switches onto the network and then connect the EqualLogic storage arrays to the switches.

Then the company connected all of the servers that were already there to the switch and, over time, moved data residing on the disk drives inside those servers into the storage array.

"And what they find is that they are able to move all the application data into the EqualLogic storage arrays, eliminating the need to have disk drives inside the servers," Joseph said.

Staff writer Doug Beizer can be reached at dbeizer@1105govinfo.com.

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