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Integrating a cost-effective,high-performing data centre solution

Nation Publishing existing storage infrastructure was stressed due to high data growth rates. It needed a new storage plan that factored in longterm data demand and growth - without high capital costs. Area Data Systems recommended a solution that included LSI and Area Systems JBODs. Nation Publishing now has a secure, cost-eff ective data centre solution that also achieves high-performance computing with the inclusion of LSI™ MegaRAID® 6Gb/s SATA+SAS Controller Cards. By Henderson Sobers, Head of Technology, Nation Publishing.


Date: 1 Sep 2010

As Nation Publishing’s data capacity requirements doubled within a year, its small server farm with legacy storage disks became an administrative hassle and costly to manage. Previously, the solution was to purchase additional storage for each individual server. But, some servers had excess storage capacity while others were being over-utilised. This was no longer a cost-effective solution to leverage capital investments as new hardware was acquired to patch the problem.

Area Data Systems took on the challenge with Nation Publishing and discovered the need for a solution that could meet the following criteria:

  • Accelerate access to data
  • Provide high availability & scalable centralised storage
  • Include a thin provisioning strategy
  • Replicate data off site for disaster recovery
  • Easily integrate with Nation Publishings’ server infrastructure
  • Drive high return on investment (ROI)
  • Easy to upgrade in order to meet future needs

Area Systems was with Nation Publishing each step of the way. Nation Publishing selected industrial-leading channel data centre components from Area Data System, LSI and DataCore to build their storage infrastructure to meet the expanding needs.

The challenge

Nation Publishing first selected Area Data Systems’ DataON™ DNS-1200 2U SAS JBOD system with dual active-active SAS I/O modules because of its tier 1 quality and modular design. Built from hot-swappable modularised components including SAS I/O modules, disk drives, and redundant power and cooling modules, DataON™ DNS-1200 SAS JBODs ensure a high level of system data availability along with maximum possible uptime through its dual active-active SAS I/O modules that offer redundant data paths to enable failover/failback operation with LSI MegaRAID SAS RAID controllers. LSI MegaRAID Storage Manager (MSM) supports SES-2 (SCSI Enclosure Service 2) technology and provides Nation Publishing with FRU status from an easy to use GUI, along with email alerts when there are status changes.

Plus, Nation Publishing can expand more in capacity, more quickly than before, by easily daisy chaining additional SAS JBODs in up to 4 units when they need it using the LSI 9280-8e which supports up to 240 SATA and/or SAS devices total.

Data acceleration, protection, & administration

Nation Publishing’s data centre solution turned the x86 hardware into an iSCSI, and a fibre channel centralised storage target by using SANMelody from DataCore. It accelerated data performance through its built-in caching algorithms system. This leverages system memory to minimised delays and improved application response times. As a result, Nation Publishing was able to achieve a high-performing consolidated storage solution that provided 2.5 times IOPS performance over that of native disks.

To achieve the objective of off site data replication, a second SAN based on LSI and Area Data system components was confi gured using SANMelody from DataCore. Each time data are written to the production SAN, those data are replicated at a disaster recovery site. In the event of a disaster at the main site, Nation Publishing has the ability to failover and access data with minimal effort.

High performance and system reliability

To complete the solution, Nation Publishing needed a high-performance RAID controller card. First, the LSI MegaRAID 3Gb/s SATA+SAS 8888ELP model was compared to other adapters in the market, and Nation Publishing concluded that LSI provided the best performance and high-availability over the competition.

Next, several tests were conducted to see how the LSI MegaRAID 8888ELP worked with and without DataCore SANMelody Software. The LSI MegaRAID 8888ELP was further tested where different combinations of RAID levels were used with a sample of 22 drives to be used by the SAN. Each test yielded very good results in terms of IOPS, data throughput and system reliability; and, the best result was with RAID 5 of up to 1600Mb/s.

LSI MegaRAID SAS controllers use different paths to balance the load on the entire system to get optimal performance. Using multiple paths with load balancing, instead of a single path, increases performance without compromising reliability through built-in path redundancy. If one of the paths fails, it will automatically switch over to survival paths to continue the work. This is an important feature that helps Nation Publishing reach their goal of 24x7 uptime.

Maximum performance, system migration from 3Gb/s to 6Gb/s

Although the performance of the data centre was improved – Nation Publishing did not stop in locating an even stronger and higher performing data centre solution. When LSI released the 6Gb/s SATA+SAS LSI MegaRAID 9280-8e controller that is backward compatible with the 3Gb/S systems, the Nation Publishing saw this as an opportunity to achieve additional performance. The decision was made to migrate their storage from the 3G to the 6G RAID controller platform.

Nation Publishing also looked to upgrade to the DNS-1400 4U 24 bay SAS JBOD, to double capacity while reducing power consumption.

Once the 6Gb/s LSI MegaRAID 9280-8E controller was configured and ready for testing, Nation Publishing compared the performance to that of the 3Gb/s LSI MegaRAID 8888ELP model.

Nation Publishing benefi ted in huge performance improvements with the 6Gb/s LSI card such as strong sequential write performance in RAID 5 of up to 1443MB/s. This is three times faster than what they had before, accomplished by simply upgrading to the latest LSI 6Gb/s technologies compatible with their 3Gb/s storage systems.

Meeting user demands for data growth

Simplified administration and data protection are among the many benefits that Nation Publishing news has with its new and highly available data centre solution. With the new storage system, Nation Publishing can exceed user demands for more data and plan for future spikes in data growth without administrative and costly pressures of the past. With a solid storage infrastructure in place that includes virtual servers powered by LSI technology, all data relevant to publishing newspapers for Barbados are conveniently stored and easily accessed for future needs.

Data centre components

Customers, like Nation Publishing, consistently outgrow their storage infrastructure and need scalable high performance options to support their expanding needs. Consider the following components when building systems that enable cloud computing environments.

LSI 6G/bs MegaRAID SAS 9280-8e

The MegaRAID SAS 9280-8e, with eight external SATA+SAS ports, is great for configuring these external enclosures with your choice of high-performance SAS hard drives, high-capacity SATA hard drives or energy-efficient solid state drives (SSDs). With data transfer rates of up to 6Gb/s per port, the MegaRAID SAS 9280-8e brings users new features and improved performance, while continuing to support all the features of the previous 3Gb/s SATA+SAS generation. This feature line controller employs the latest in RAID-on-Chip (ROC) technology, complies with the PCI Express® 2.0 specification and provides additional data security using LSI SafeStore™ encryption services.

Area Data Systems DataON™ DNS-1200 and 1400 3Gb/s SAS JBOD is a high-density, high-reliability and cost-effective SAS host to SAS/SATA-II disk direct attached primary or near-line storage solution. With Area DNS-1200 and 1400, you can customise the storage system for your needs. Configure it to meet the high reliability, high-performance with SAS disk drive or low-cost high-capacity requirements with SATA-II disk drive or to create tiered storage solutions by mixing both SAS and SATA-II disk drives in the same system. The Area DNS-1200 and 1400 SAS JBOD offer the high-performance and continuous availability demanded by today’s business applications and provides customers with choices in performance, capacity and reliability.

SANmelody converts standard Intel/AMD servers, blades or virtual machines (VMs) into fully capable storage servers that virtualise disks and serve them over existing networks to application servers. They are simple to operate, take only minutes to install, and let you cost-effectively optimise, manage and protect data storage and disk space.


Boosting I/O performance for Cloud-based customers

Blue Box Group, a Ruby on Rails web hosting company, has upgraded their existing 3Gb/s infrastructure with LSITM 3ware® 6Gb/s SATA+SAS RAID controllers to meet the increasing I/O demands of cloud-based customers in its data center. The improved data transfer rates and ease of management of 3ware 6Gb/s controllers, combined with Pogo Linux’s robust Intel®-based Iris servers, provide Blue Box Group with a scalable, high-performance infrastructure from which to build its cloud-based application and database solution. 

“We needed to increase the I/O performance of our web and database servers to keep pace with our hosting customers’ growing I/O demands,” said Jesse Proudman, CEO of Blue Box Group. “Together, the LSI and Pogo Linux 6Gb/s solution addressed the need for higher throughput while maintaining the simplified RAID management that 3ware controllers provide for monitoring our network.”  

A longtime customer of LSI 3ware RAID controllers, Blue Box Group upgraded its existing 3ware 3Gb/s infrastructure with next-generation LSI 3ware 9750 series 6Gb/s SATA+SAS RAID controllers running on Intel®-based Iris rack mount servers from Pogo Linux. The controllers are compatible with Blue Box Group’s existing 3Gb/s SATA and SAS infrastructure, protecting current investments while simplifying integration and reducing deployment time.

“The LSI implementation at Blue Box Group underscores our commitment to enhancing the 3ware product line and our continued service of the loyal 3ware customer base,” said Brent Blanchard, director of worldwide channel sales and marketing, LSI. “The 3ware 9750 series controllers based on 6Gb/s SAS technology enable customers to implement a next-generation storage infrastructure without sacrificing their existing SAS and SATA investments or the simplified RAID management they’re accustomed to from the 3ware line.”

LSI 3ware 9750 series controllers, which feature the LSISAS2108 6Gb/s SAS RAID-on-Chip (ROC), deliver up to 2.5GB/s in sequential read and 1.7GB/s in sequential write performance using 6Gb/s SAS drives, more than doubling the data transfer rates of the previous-generation products.

Blue Box Group also was able to maintain uniformity with its RAID management software, eliminating the need to add a new software management layer and retrain IT staff. The easy-to-use and intuitive 3ware 3DM2TM management utility and advanced command line interface provide Blue Box Group with simplified configuration, management and remote monitoring of 3ware storage arrays. These benefits, along with self-monitoring and automatic service notifications, help minimize Blue Box Group’s administration of storage arrays, and the associated costs.

“The decision to upgrade to the 6Gb/s SATA+SAS family of LSI 3ware RAID controllers was simple, as performance gains greatly outweighed the investment,” continued Proudman. “The move to 3ware 6Gb/s controllers also provides us with a head start on a full-scale migration to a 6Gb/s SAS ecosystem, allowing us to address future business growth needs in our data center for an even greater long-term ROI.”


Tags: Data Centres, Cloud Storage

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