Use Multiple Vendors To Provide Disaster Recovery In Heterogeneous Environments
A VAR uses open architecture switches to resolve challenges with a storage project at a hospital.
It's commonplace for a vendor to connect a channel partner with a customer to resolve a problem. That appeared to be the case when Total Tec Systems, a solutions provider for server consolidation and virtualization, was first introduced to the storage and disaster recovery (DR) challenges facing St. Joseph Healthcare, a community hospital in Maine. "St. Joseph started by investigating HP storage that would work alongside their existing storage, and that is how we became involved with their installation — as an HP channel partner," explains Paul Collins, VP of technology for Total Tec. But as Total Tec delved more deeply into St. Joseph's situation, the integrator realized the customer needed more than just an HP server; it needed disaster recovery capabilities in a heterogeneous SAN (storage area network) environment. "We started with the HP EVA [enterprise virtual array] server as a good solution, but when they explained they needed data replication as part of the solution, the installation evolved into a multivendor solution in order to resolve interoperability and replication between two storage vendor products."
Complete SAN 'Health Check' To Identify Problems
To determine exactly what was required to serve St. Joseph's needs, Total Tec reviewed St. Joseph's environment and did a SAN 'health check.' "We use diagnostic tools to examine the storage environments of our clients and create a report on everything they find. To do that, the diagnostic software goes out and completes an autodiscovery of everything it can 'see' or 'talk to' in the client's SAN infrastructure, and reports back on the switches, the zoning [data segregation], the firmware, and more. The next stage is a compatibility list; then we verify what revisions and components we need," says Collins. He adds that, particularly in a disaster recovery scenario, an integrator needs to understand a client's IT and business operational environment so they can decide how to replicate those operations to a virtual environment and how to bring the client back up to working order. "You have to understand the client's paths — what applications and business processes are being used, as well as their IT environment — so that you can replicate the data and applications and then restore them," explains Collins.
Total Tec resolved St. Joseph's storage problem by pairing two SANRAD V-Switches with integrated storage virtualization and replication software at the hospital's two sites, which were then connected by dark fiber (optical fiber infrastructure in place but not being used) over a Metropolitan Area Network (MAN). "We were fortunate doing replication over dark fiber since many of the latency issues and the other common issues going into remote replication were resolved by the available size of the bandwidth," says Collins. The SANRAD switches enable the VMware servers to use an economical Internet Protocol SAN to connect on the front end and provide a centralized graphical user interface to perform storage management, virtualization, and disaster recovery across both sites. Plus, the SANRAD open architecture allows St. Joseph to pair its existing storage with the new HP storage. As a network-based solution, the SANRAD V-Switch provides data migration with no disruption to server operations. "What swayed us toward SANRAD was the combination of replication along with the VMware environment," explains Collins.
Present Multivendor Solutions To Win Contract
Total Tec won the job primarily because its solution resolved St. Joseph's heterogeneous storage needs while delivering DR at significant cost savings. With the ability to leverage its existing SAN, St. Joseph saved about $250,000 in hardware costs alone. "The cost of remaining with their existing vendor when they added storage and replication capabilities was pretty pricey," explains Collins. The installation, which took about two months, delivered secondary benefits beyond cost savings, says Collin. "They started with a data replication solution, but because of SANRAD's capabilities to manage VMware and virtual machines, they got more than they anticipated in terms of DR in a multivendor environment." With that experience behind them, Collins says Total Tec has one more option to offer future customers. "We are always looking at methods for doing business continuity effectively, and each installation has different distinguishing aspects that we learn from," he says. In this case, because St. Joseph wanted replication, was using VMware, and needed a multivendor solution, it was a new challenge for Total Tec in an area of explosive growth — storage virtualization. "One of the benefits of virtualization is that data is more portable, so we are looking at methods of moving data and applications, making this a great learning opportunity."