Examples of Converged IT in the Real World

Examples of Converged IT in the Real World
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Three IT case studies to guide your converged architecture and storage evolution.

Over the last few months, we’ve explored some of the theory surrounding converged architecture and converged storage. In this article we present three instances of convergence in action in the real world.

The core concept is that rather than the legacy infrastructure model, in which compute, storage, and networking resources are all built as discrete silos within the data center, a converged model integrates these three facets into a cohesive whole. This makes for higher resource efficiency, higher performance, and easier management—or so the story goes. We thought it was time to seek out businesses that had actually worked through converged architecture implementations and could report back on their from-the-trenches experiences. From their wisdom, perhaps you’ll glean information to help guide your own IT evolution.

Hobart BrothersGaston Brown of Hobart BorthersGaston Brown of Hobart Borthers

With roots dating back to 1917, the Hobart Brothers Company manufactures welding filler materials. Hobart Brothers was purchased by multinational manufacturer Illinois Tool Works in 1996 and thus has ties to some large IT resources, even though Hobart’s IT continues to function independently.

In 2006, Hobart purchased a LeftHand NSM 160, a slim iSCSI SAN module equipped with 4 TB of storage. Inevitably, Hobart outgrew the device. By 2010, system administrator Gaston Brown knew that his organization needed more storage capacity and higher performance. He also wanted an upgrade solution that would entail minimal downtime and the fewest possible migration hassles.

Brown brought in Dell EqualLogic, EMC, and HP solutions as potential upgrades. All told, Brown and his group spent roughly four months trying out all three. The performance across the group was similar, and while there was a small price advantage for HP (owing largely to parent company ITW’s large volume pricing agreement with the computing vendor), the two main reasons that Hobart opted for HP were ease of migration and customer service.

“We migrated over a weekend,” says Brown. “It took about 16 hours to migrate 4TB of storage from one SAN to the other – with no downtime. That was due to the fact that we used HP with the LeftHand. The old NSM 160s work on the same software that the new P4000 series works on. So we could migrate volumes from one SAN to the other live. That wouldn’t have been the case with another vendor. We would’ve gone to an offline migration where we would have had to back up the data, then bring it up on the new SAN. I actually performed the HP migration remotely from my house.”

As for customer service, this started even during the RFP phase. Brown illustrates with one of the competitors having sent a SAN for evaluation—only it wasn’t the SAN Hobart was looking to deploy. In contrast, HP sent roughly $100,000 of SAN gear to try out for a month and a half. HP opened a case for Hobart and had a service tech standing by to answer any questions. Not surprisingly, Brown ended up keeping one of the two HP P4000 units and put it into immediate production service.

With the P4000 in place, Brown went to work leveraging HP’s converged architecture and transitioned most of the company’s servers into virtual environments. All databases run on the SAN, but Hobart also employs Citrix’s XenCenter with Windows Servers, Exchange Server, and a virtualized file cluster.

“Most people will have their storage for their SQL or whatever with their hard server,” says Brown. “But when you’re utilizing this SAN, you’re taking out that failure component. You’re no longer worried about a controller or an individual box going bad. Everything in the SAN is RAIDed, and you’re getting higher performance from having all those spindles together, whereas before, if you were relying on server-based storage, you were only going to get the performance allowed by the controller and the disk speeds.”

William Van WinkleWilliam Van Winkle

William Van Winkle has been a full-time tech writer and author since 1998. He specializes in a wide range of coverage areas, including unified communications, virtualization, Cloud Computing, storage solutions and more. William lives in Hillsboro, Oregon with his wife and 2.4 kids, and—when not scrambling to meet article deadlines—he enjoys reading, travel, and writing fiction.

See here for all of William's Tom's IT Pro articles.

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