Pee Dee Electric Cooperative's plans to virtualize its data center originally included servers and desktops; storage virtualization followed out of necessity.
The Darlington, S.C.-based nonprofit that supplies electricity and other services to more than 30,000 consumers went virtual to improve performance in the data center and institute a business continuity (BC) strategy.
After placing its Tier-1 mission-critical databases and applications on VMware virtual servers, Pee Dee Electric Cooperative's (PDEC) IT manager Robbie Howle noticed his aging EMC Clariion X3 storage array could not provide adequate performance. A key Oracle database and a Microsoft Exchange server were among those suffering poor performance.
That's when Howle decided to virtualize storage. He installed DataCore Software SANsymphony-V virtual storage software and switched to Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. P2000 G3 MSA entry-level storage arrays.
The MSA arrays have a total of 20 TB of usable capacity running 8 Gbps Fibre Channel between the storage infrastructure and the SANsymphony-V hosts, which are HP Proliant DL380 Gen8 servers. The P2000 has 3.5-inch, 15,000 rpm serial-attached SCSI disks. One P2000 is the primary storage array in the Darlington data center, and the other is in a payment center/disaster recovery site located approximately 15 miles away in Marion, S.C.
SANsymphony-V virtual storage software provides synchronous mirroring between HP MSA storage arrays at the two sites. It also handles basic storage management functions.
PDEC's virtualization plan included the cooperative's Aclara TWACS meter data management (MDM) application, which enables customers to go online and see their electrical usage and meter readings. The MDM application "uses power line carrier technology to talk down the power lines, like you talk across the phones lines, to all the meters," Howle said. "We can actually tell you when you turned your air conditioner on."
The MDM application's back-end Oracle databases were part of the reason Howle's storage infrastructure couldn't provide enough horsepower to run his virtualized environment.
Now Howle has the cooperative's MDM application, Exchange, maps database, outage management system, Web servers, 120 virtual machines, and an 80-seat VMware View 5.1 virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment running off the HP SAN and DataCore software. After adding the VDI environment, Howle said he knew his storage performance had to be exceptional.
"The performance had to be spot-on for the desktop users or they would see it before a server would see it," Howle said. "A server's not going to cry to you because an application didn't work, but an end user will, so that stuff had to work."
In addition to increased performance and efficiency, Howle also likes the DataCore virtual storage software for two other reasons. First, it was easy to install. "You don't need a system engineer to come down and hook it up," he commented. "You can do it yourself."
Second, it enabled his team to institute the cooperative's BC plan. "The DataCore [software] allowed us to be able to make the storage redundant, so if we lose one array we're not dead in the water," he said. The SANsymphony-V software replicates his environment to the Marion, S.C., site at real time for most applications. He also uses Veeam Software's backup application for nightly delta backups and monthly full backups.