IT Innovators
IT Innovators: Improving Performance and Saving Money with Virtualized Storage

IT Innovators: Improving Performance and Saving Money with Virtualized Storage

An IT company and U.S. government agency worked collaboratively to optimize and virtualize several siloed storage environments across a number of different data centers. Want to know more?

Unisys recently faced the challenge of optimizing and virtualizing several siloed storage environments spread across multiple data centers for a large U.S. government agency. In doing so, it managed to not only streamline the agency’s storage, but save it a considerable amount of money at the same time.

The key, said Unisys manager David Christel, was getting all the players—from IT staff to upper-level managers—to both understand the need for storage optimization and get on board with the process. The latter was perhaps the biggest challenge since at the time, the move to virtualized storage was relatively unheard of for a government agency.

“The technology was well defined, and our partners had solutions that were functional,” Christel said of the agency’s storage solution. The issue they faced was “much more along the lines of an institutional change. This was a radical departure for a government agency.”

Deployment began in June of 2012, and migration followed once the cloud was up in March 2013. The government agency wanted to get away from siloed storage and all the problems with speed, cost and storage acquisition that it presented. “Each of their operations were independent of each other,” Christel explained, which meant that they were overusing their storage and couldn’t properly optimize their purchasing power. “Because the storage was spread across several different physical locations, the agency lacked the ability to easily move, share or take snapshots of their storage.”

The agency held steady on the storage hardware it had already purchased and, working with Unisys, it was virtualized and leveraged for optimization. Once that process was done, the agency had plenty of storage available for its needs. “We were able to reuse all their assets, refine them, and give them better performance,” Christel explained. “It gave them a view into the performance of their applications that they didn’t have before.”

In addition to providing the agency with greater ability to access its information more quickly, the partnership with Unisys also allowed it to realize significant savings, cutting costs for storage by 30 percent. The change to virtualized storage meant the agency now only paid for what it actually wrote to the hard drive. “We're able to accelerate or slow things down,” Christel said of the change, “which all has a cost implementation.”

One of the areas where money was saved was in transferring over the agency’s assets to Unisys. When Unisys came in, the agency had 82 arrays--some of them more than a decade old. The arrays ran on applications that had to be purchased piecemeal, and they were vendor-specific for different hardware. “Maintenance was absolutely killing them,” Christel said.

Because of virtualization, the software now provides all of the necessary capabilities, Christel said, allowing Unisys to leverage and remove all older arrays. And, while cutting costs was clearly a benefit, the real success came in cutting costs while also increasing capability. Switching to a virtualized storage system provided a considerable increase in speed in accessing data. “The agency can very quickly provision 10, 20, 30 terabytes within minutes, if they choose,” he said.

Unisys’ strong partnership with the agency is one reason why the journey was successful, Christel said. “It was a collaborative effort and very much hands on.”

Now the agency’s storage, as well as its ability to move and share it, is seamless, Christel said. The agency went from storage that was vendor and hardware bound to storage that is software defined and virtualized. “They took their entire mainframe,” he said, “and moved it to a much more dynamic environment.”

Terri Coles is a freelance writer based in St. John’s, NL. Her work covers topics as diverse as food, health and business. If you have a story you would like profiled, contact her at [email protected].

The IT Innovators series of articles is underwritten by Microsoft, and is editorially independent.

 

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