Westmoreland Intermediate Unit
A regional educational service agency in Pennsylvania, Westmoreland IU realizes dramatic improvements indata efficiency and data protection, and is able to consolidate all of their data center using SimpliVity OmniCube.
“We would have just been putting a band-aid to our environment if we had gone with other solutions. OmniCube allowed usto eliminate an entire rack of equipment.” – Eric Vaughan, IT Director, Westmoreland Intermediate Unit
Westmoreland Intermediate Unit is one of 29 intermediate units in Pennsylvania created to provide instructional and operational services to school districts, charter schools, and over 2400 non-public and private schools. Westmoreland IU in particular serves seventeen school districts and three county Career and Technology Centers. 305 students are enrolled in their online learning program and total course enrollments being 1300. The WIU runs a massive 2TB Microsoft Exchange database server as well as a SQL and MySQL database management system and other hosted learning management systems. However, as their VMs started growing bigger and bigger, they had to compromise the frequency and retention of their backups in aneffort to conserve limited storage—and that concession was unacceptable in an educational service agency.
Data Protection, Data Center Consolidation, and Tier-1 Applications
Westmoreland Intermediate Unit was faced with a vexing problem. Their legacy IT environment could no longer handle their growing VMs, and were quickly running out of capacity for optimal operations and data protection.
The WIU had two Promise Arrays, totaling 4TB of storage, attached to two Intel Modular Server chassis, each containing 14 internal disks with 6TB of internal storage. One server sported six compute modules with two processors and the other hadfour with another two processors. The WIU’s hosted learning management system, running several instances of Moodle 2.7 were each around 1TB in capacity, and their archiving and litigation server was also running close to their 2TB capacity. Their entire environment had about 12TB worth of storage, but the WIU quickly discovered that it was no longer sufficient.
The decreasing capacity was growing to be more than an initial annoyance and had the predicted consequence of forcing them to reduce the number of backups in order to conserve their lessening storage capacity. Their key mission-critical application, a 2TB Microsoft Exchange server supplying over 3000 mailboxes to users in the numerous school districts, were using Veeam backups to send data to the TwinStrata CloudArray with Amazon S3. While the WIU was backing up their applications daily with five restore points, some larger VMs, such as Exchange, could undergo only one restore point due to capacity restraints. The WIU also faced additional frustrations with extremely long backup times of up to eight hours using Veeam, and then only being able to retain those backups for a week. When backing up to cloud, the process took even longer, usually upwards of 48 hours to migrate everything. It was a less-than-ideal situation, to be certain.
Eric Vaughan, IT Director at Westmoreland IU knew that the aging infrastructure, lack of data protection, capacity restraints, and environment complexity had to go. But what solution could meet all of their requirements and still be within their budget?
The WIU looked for a solution that could be easily managed, provide data protection and disaster recovery, and increase their capacity requirements. They were initially in the market for a data storage solution, and evaluated numerous SAN storage solutions, but primarily focused on Nimble Storage for their capacity requirements. However, they were approached by one of SimpliVity’s resellers, Computer Connections, Inc., who presented the OmniCube.
“We did a cost analysis and it turned out that for approximately the same amount we would have been investing in just astorage solution, we could eliminate and consolidate all of our data center into two OmniCubes,” said Vaughan. “The OmniCubes are an all-in-one solution.”
Installation and deployment of the OmniCubes was simple and fast. Not only were they able to migrate all 30 VMs with approximately 12TB of data to the OmniCubes within a day and a half, they did so without any end-users noticing any downtime in performance. The WIU was able to see immediate improvements in their data center after implementing OmniCube. The WIU is enjoying a data efficiency of 27:1 and capacity savings of 240TB thanks to SimpliVity’s Data Virtualization Platform that deduplicates, compresses, and optimizes data for efficient and instant results. “Everything that we’ve been running has been noticeably faster,” said Vaughan. “We used to have issues with Outlook clients disconnecting; the unexplained hiccups have all gone away. The number of complaints we received have definitely dropped.”
Now, Vaughan and his IT team are able to back up their most important application, the Exchange environment, the Hosted Moodle environment, as well as other critical applications daily. Retentions now happen within seconds—compared to eighthours—and are also being kept for 30 days. Backups and restores for their online courses have also been dramatically improved, going from half an hour to mere minutes. Their legacy backup systems have been eliminated and they are now fully using OmniCube’s integrated data protection capabilities to provide immediate backup and efficient DR for their environment. WIU also managed to rid a full rack of equipment with two OmniCubes as well in their primary data center.
Vaughan plans to implement the third OmniCube to an offsite DR location at another Intermediate Unit in Pennsylvania, 45 minutes away, and when asked if he would recommend this to his colleagues, Vaughan stated, “Yes, I’ve already done so! I have recommended OmniCube to the other Intermediate Units and also larger customers we work with.”
Key benefits include:
- Best of both worlds: cloud economics with enterprise protection, performance, data efficiency, and management
- Data efficiency of 27:1
- Data center consolidation
- Capacity savings of 240TB
- Dramatically improved RTOs and RPOs
- Cloud economics with Tier-1 enterprise capabilities
- Single management interface via vCenter
- Inline data deduplication, compression, and optimization
- Hyperconverged infrastructure
- Integrated data protection