The Rhône-Alpes Region simplifies data storage for greater efficiency

Virtualizing its storage on advanced IBM technology

Published on 14-Sep-2012

"The XIV system offers high performance and full storage virtualization for a relatively low price per TB. What’s more, you get all of the powerful management tools included as standard, rather than needing to pay extra for them." - Hervé Cebulski, IT Manager, The Rhône-Alpes Region

Customer:
The Rhône-Alpes Region

Industry:
Government

Deployment country:
France

Solution:
Business Resiliency, High Availability , BA - Risk Analytics

IBM Business Partner:
INETD Consulting

Overview

Rhône-Alpes is one of the 26 Regions in France, located in the east of the country and sharing borders with Switzerland and Italy. The public administration for the Region is responsible for providing a broad range of services, including transport, education and economic assistance, to its six million inhabitants. In 2011, the Rhône-Alpes administration had a budget of €2.4 billion and employed approximately 6,600 people across the region.

Business need:
Facing capacity and performance issues on its existing data storage infrastructure, the public administration of the Rhône-Alpes Region decided to migrate to new technology at the same time as moving to a new location. The organization needed cost-effective, high-performance disk storage with a simple and non-disruptive migration path. It also wanted to minimize storage administration tasks.

Solution:
The Rhône-Alpes Region worked with IBM® Business Partner INETD to deploy two IBM XIV® Storage System solutions in separate machine rooms in the same building, mirrored using the built-in synchronous and asynchronous replication function on the XIV systems.

Benefits:
Fast migration with minimum disruption, thanks to careful planning by INETD and the built-in XIV data migration tools; reliable, scalable, high-performance disk storage has dramatically reduced the time spent on storage administration; use of cloning on XIV has accelerated backups and reduced risk.

Case Study

To read a French version of this case study, click here.

Rhône-Alpes is one of the 26 Regions in France, located in the east of the country and sharing borders with Switzerland and Italy. The public administration for the Region is responsible for providing a broad range of services, including transport, education and economic assistance, to its six million inhabitants. In 2011, the Rhône-Alpes administration had a budget of €2.4 billion and employed approximately 6,600 people across the region.

To manage the provision of services to citizens and businesses, Rhône-Alpes has a large and diverse set of business applications, ranging from databases and messaging systems to accounting and human resources systems. Facing the need to move its headquarters about 10 km to a new building in Lyon, the organization took the opportunity to refresh its data storage infrastructure.

Hervé Cebulski, IT Manager, explains: “We were facing performance and capacity issues on the existing storage infrastructure, and we wanted to move to a more efficient and scalable solution that would enable us to reduce administrative costs. It made sense to address this at the same time as our planned data center migration, rather than to move old equipment at the end of its working life.”

Non-disruptive migration
With the smooth running of numerous public services at stake, Rhône-Alpes needed to ensure a trouble-free migration to the new storage infrastructure. In fact, this was seen as a critical success factor for the project, making it one of the key elements in the selection of a new solution.

IBM and its Business Partner INETD proposed the IBM XIV Storage System, which offers an innovative virtualized grid architecture that delivers extremely high performance from relatively large and low-cost SATA disks. It also features built-in automated data migration tools that minimize downtime.

“Our migration strategy was based entirely on the migration tool proposed as part of the XIV solution,” says Hervé Cebulski. “The solution proposed by INETD was a good fit with our requirements, and their whole approach to the migration project was very reassuring. They have extensive experience of this kind of solution, and the offer was also reasonable from the financial perspective.”

INETD installed an XIV system at the original site, migrated data from the old EMC systems to it, and set up a SAN network to the new site. The company used the built-in XIV data replication software to mirror the data from this first XIV to a second XIV at the new site. Once everything was copied across successfully, Rhône-Alpes moved the first XIV from the old site to a second machine room at the new site.

The XIV system now stores all business data at Rhône-Alpes and is connected via SAN fabric to approximately 100 physical servers (running IBM AIX®, Microsoft Windows Server and Linux) and a further 200 virtual servers (IBM AIX on IBM PowerVM®; Windows and Linux on VMware). An IBM System Storage® DS3500 array completes the solution, providing capacity for disk-based backups that are subsequently written to tape for low-cost long-term storage.

“INETD helped us to achieve a smooth migration with very little disruption to normal operations,” says Hervé Cebulski. “Their breadth of knowledge was especially valuable, as they were able to resolve some issues that we encountered in the VMware environment.”

Fast and easy to manage
“The performance of the XIV enables us to absorb peaks in demand without any problems; the organization of data is a purely administrative notion on XIV, and with the system being entirely responsible for actually spreading the data out over the drives, we have no issues with hotspots or points of contention on RAID groups – which we used to have with the old equipment,” says Hervé Cebulski. “What’s actually more advantageous for us the ease of management. I can’t quantify this, but the time spent on managing storage is reduced to a minimum: once the volumes are set up, the systems remains stable as time passes; there’s no longer any need to spend precious time on tuning to optimize access to resources. The system is much easier to administer, and there’s far less need for daily tuning of storage – in fact, pretty much no need at all.”

The built-in XIV software includes tools for monitoring storage performance and usage, enabling Rhône-Alpes to get a real-time picture of the whole environment. The old infrastructure had a similar, though much less accessible, tool; using it introduced so much system overhead that it was unable to provide a real-time view. Whenever there is a performance problem in the production environment, it is vital to be able to see at that precise moment the state of all the different elements of the infrastructure. The native XIV tools allow this analysis to be executed in a highly efficient manner while remaining very accessible. The XIV systems also provide tools to monitor data growth over time, which help Rhône-Alpes to manage capacity planning for the future.

Disaster averted
The Rhône-Alpes administration has first-hand experience of the resilience of the XIV system. Soon after the migration, a false-alarm activation of the automatic fire suppression system in its primary machine room caused major damage. The XIV system was covered in dust and fireproof flocking from the ceiling, but the system kept running and there were no interruptions to production.

Subsequent examination by IBM determined that 26 of the 132 disks in the XIV system were broken, and a further 46 were damaged.

“The disks were actually damaged by the 130 dB noise of the gas escaping from the fire suppression system, which caused major vibrations,” says Hervé Cebulski. “Although we lost a large number of disks, no data was lost and there was no service disruption – that’s pretty remarkable!”

Given the damage to the primary XIV, the decision was made to replace it with a new machine. In the interim, the organization upgraded its secondary XIV system to 79 TB capacity and used it as the sole storage server. Rhône-Alpes is using approximately 55 TB of the total capacity, with data mirrored either synchronously (for databases and virtual machines) or asynchronously (for files) to the second XIV system.

Security at low cost
Rhône-Alpes uses the cloning function in the XIV Storage System copy services to copy production databases for backup purposes. “We do cold backups, whereby we halt the databases, clone them, and then continue working on the clones,” says Hervé Cebulski. “With XIV, this is essentially instantaneous, so there is no impact on live systems when we take a backup. For our old infrastructure, we had snapshot capabilities which did roughly the same thing – except that the XIV cloning approach means far less risk, because we have a complete physical copy of the data instantaneously available.”

He concludes: “The XIV system offers high performance and full storage virtualization for a relatively low price per TB. What’s more, you get all of the powerful management tools included as standard, rather than needing to pay extra for them. The ease of administration using these tools keeps the long-term cost of ownership very low.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Hardware:
Storage, Storage: DS3500 Express, Storage: XIV

Software:
AIX, PowerVM

Operating system:
AIX, Linux

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2012 Compagnie IBM France 17 avenue de l’Europe 92275 Bois-Colombes Cedex Produced in France September 2012 IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, AIX, PowerVM, System Storage and XIV are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. A current list of other IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at: ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries, or both. Other company, product or service names may be trademarks, or service marks of others. References in this publication to IBM products, programs or services do not imply that IBM intends to make these available in all countries in which IBM operates. Any reference to an IBM product, program or service is not intended to imply that only IBM’s product, program or service may be used. Any functionally equivalent product, program or service may be used instead. All customer examples cited represent how some customers have used IBM products and the results they may have achieved. Actual environmental costs and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. IBM hardware products are manufactured from new parts, or new and used parts. In some cases, the hardware product may not be new and may have been previously installed. Regardless, IBM warranty terms apply. This publication is for general guidance only. Photographs may show design models.