Downloads | Seventh Day Adventist Church Becomes First Organisation in Australia to Deploy EMC VSPEX In Virtualisation Refresh
Seventh Day Adventist Church Becomes First Organisation in Australia to Deploy EMC VSPEX In Virtualisation Refresh
A quick recap
A little over three years ago the South Pacific Division of the Seventh Day Adventist Church instituted major changes to its information systems (IS) infrastructure. With the help of IT partner, Tecala, the Church’s IS group brought together 14 separate administrative entities under a single cloud computing environment.
The project saw the creation of a wide area network to deliver hosted managed services and provide more efficient network management, security and backup. In addition, a new EMC storage area network (SAN) was deployed in the Church’s data centre along with six IBM hosts, several switches to connect it all together and smaller servers for management consoles and backups. The environment was fully virtualised using VMware ESX.
At the time, IS Manager, Luke Pannekoek observed, “The benefit of virtualisation is that it has given us the ability to put together around 45 servers running on just six physical servers. It’s given us much greater efficiency in processing power, reduced our hardware costs and we can have a relatively complex mix of servers in the production environment without the headache and hassle of managing it all as physical servers.
“Since it was put in we’ve significantly increased loads on the data centre with closer to 70 servers. This included the addition of two sites into our WAN. Demand on the data centre has essentially doubled what was initially planned but virtualisation provided necessary scalability and the ability to respond quickly and to continue to provide new solutions,” he noted.
The present day challenge
By late 2011 much of the data centre hardware was nearing time for renewal. Pannekoek and fellow IT manager, Matthew Mulligan considered their requirements. Both agreed that replacement hardware should increase system capacity and in particular, memory, as services managed by the IS group had grown to include a new financial system, payroll systems, additional network drives and email. There were now approximately 2,500 users and 20 sites being serviced throughout the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand.
The pair also wanted to strengthen the organisation’s disaster recovery (DR) capacity so that should the worst happen, systems could be up and running again within minutes rather than hours or days.
Tecala recommended a Cisco, EMC, VMware solution based on EMC’s pre-configured and pre-integrated VSPEX infrastructure stack. The VSPEX solution offered a modular, tightly integrated architecture that would enable rapid deployment, greater efficiency and simplified server management from a single screen.
The benefits appealed to Pannekoek but he says, “It was our first full refresh cycle and we looked at a few options. Initially, we didn’t consider that a solution of the calibre of EMC, Cisco and VMware could be affordable. What we found though was that it was competitively priced. It became the obvious choice.”
Mulligan adds, “All three are brands that we know and have confidence in, and as an organisation we like to deal with tier one vendors wherever possible.”
An easy transition
Deployment of the EMC VSPEX solution occurred over three months in late 2011. Work was carried out in parallel with existing equipment, resulting in an easy and smooth transition.
“From an architectural perspective, Tecala’s recommended solution took us ahead in leaps and bounds. We’ve added more virtual machines per server, growing from 80 to 110. We replaced the infrastructure and storage has at least doubled. There’s been a significant shift in capacity due to our move from the old stack to the new, converged infrastructure solution. The use of 10 Gigabit Ethernet has improved our networking throughput and, where we used to have a lot of one Gigabit cables everywhere, we can now use a single ten Gigabit cable,” Pannekoek explains.
When it comes to DR, the changes have been similarly dramatic. Mulligan points out, “We had DR of sorts in the past but it was nowhere near as significant as we have today. What we do now is replicate data between systems using an async tool to make sure both EMC SANs are in sync.” This parallel operation ensures that should anything occur to interrupt the production SAN, work can switch over to the recovery SAN within moments.
“The whole refresh has made a huge difference,” Mulligan notes.
Free to concentrate on user services
With the assurance of scalable capacity to support future services, Mulligan and Pannekoek are turning their attention to finding new ways of adding value for users. Their aim is to increase collaboration with Church entities, encouraging them to make the most of the centralised information services. By improving the solutions under IS management, they hope to enhance systems value add within the Church, leading to greater levels of efficiency among the various Church administrative entities.
Just as their own roles are evolving, Pannekoek says the focus of the relationship with Tecala has also changed over the years, reflecting the Church’s growing IS capabilities. “Our internal team has grown and we’ve developed new skills in-house. Tecala has guided us on our journey and left us able to stand on our own feet. We need the ability to deploy servers and architect solutions ourselves, but when it comes to knowing what’s available, that’s where we look to Tecala. They have the broader view of the industry and know what’s out there in the market.”
Mulligan agrees, concluding, “Tecala know us and where we’ve come from, so they always customise their advice for our needs.”