Penn State Testing

Penn State Turns to JetStor for Mission Critical Testing


Mission-critical applications change with updates, patches, and new functionality. Yet, placing modified apps into production environments without rigorous testing runs the risk of systemic malfunctions that can undermine an enterprise’s mission. 

Penn State, one of the nation’s leading public universities, was determined to avoid such risks. The university needed to load test changes and updates to its flagship course management system by simulating thousands of users in a test environment.

Read more about how Penn State effectively tests this key application before releasing it into production with the use of JetStor RAID Arrays.

Penn State Supports Critical Course Platform with JetStor® RAID Arrays

THE ORGANIZATION
The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) has exemplified academic excellence since its founding in 1855. Today, it is one of the nation’s very finest public universities and a leading research institution. Remarkably, Penn State maintains its educational standards despite also being one of the country’s largest universities with some 94,000 students and 24 campuses across Pennsylvania.

THE CHALLENGE
Penn State deployed the ANGEL Learning Management Suite from Blackboard, Inc. several years ago, which enabled University courses to be made available to students online. The comprehensive ANGEL platform continues to allow University faculty to develop, manage, and deliver curricula, and supports tools like wikis, blogs, podcasts, whiteboards, and instant messaging for students.

“ANGEL is an essential part of learning at Penn State,” said Lowell S., systems administrator at the University. “As the infrastructure for delivering instruction, it is critical in supporting our faculty in providing Penn State students with a quality education.” However, although ANGEL’s functionality can be customized (enabling it to support evolving curricula and social networking tools), between routine upgrades and deployments of new features, the system is continually changing. “ANGEL is too vital to release new functionality without first validating the changes in a test environment,” explained Lowell. “We can’t permit any changes that might disrupt the application and, as a result, course work.”

To ensure ANGEL’s functionality after modifications are made, IT staff subject any proposed new features to a battery of tests that simulate usage equal to thousands of users—using a system automated by SQL Server Workflow. Only when the new functionality passes these tests are they placed into the live campus environment. Yet every load test requires substantial bandwidth and generates up to 50 large reports and logs for analysis. Moreover, the databases, which total over half a terabyte, must be reset to pre-test states before another test is run. “We conduct one test after another, which puts tremendous pressure on storage due to the data produced and the need to reset the databases quickly,” said Lowell. “We required solutions that economically ingest and stream data very rapidly.”

THE SOLUTION
JetStor® SAS 516F 16-bay RAID Array & JetStor SATA 516F 16-bay RAID Arrays from Advanced Computer & Network Corporation (AC&NC) CUSTOMER TESTIMONIAL Fast Storage for Testing Penn State’s Academic Platform AC&NC JetStor® SAS 516F RAID Array Penn State's Load Test Environment Dell R900 SQL server Dell M1000 Blade Server Dell 1850 Server AC&NC JetStor SATA 516F RAID Arrays

SYSTEM CONFIGURATION
• JetStor SAS 516F 16 bay RAID Array with 146 GB SAS drives

• JetStor SATA 516F 16-bay RAID Arrays with one terabyte SATA drives

• Dell PowerEdge R900 SQL Server

• Dell PowerEdge M1000 Blade Server

• Dell PowerEdge 1850 Server

BENEFITS IMMEDIATELY REALIZED
With its JetStor RAID Arrays, Penn State can repeatedly and reliably subject ANGEL to even the most grueling tests. IT can make changes to the platform, swiftly determine their effects, and identify problems before releasing the modifications to faculty and students. “We’re able to test countless scenarios because we can quickly store the reporting data and reset our databases,” said Lowell. “We’ve used JetStor systems for years and they’re always up to the task.”

A JetStor SAS 516F with 146 Gb drives links at 4 Gb/sec FC to a Dell PowerEdge R900 server running the SQL databases. The array stripes data onto multiple disks for very fast I/O performance that enables restores at 320 mg/sec speeds. Another JetStor SATA 516F with 1 Tb drives connects to the Dell system at 1 Gb/sec Ethernet speed to store reports generated by the tests. “By striping data on RAID storage that’s already fast, we avoid latency in file access or performance bottlenecks that could skew test results,” said Lowell.

The University has deployed a second JetStor SATA Array with 1 Tb disks to also house logs, reports, and archival data. The solution has 1 Gb Ethernet links to a Dell PowerEdge 1850 Server and a Dell M1000 Blade Server that includes an Active Directory server, an analysis server, and a collector server. To avoid any data loss, both JetStor SATA devices are configured for RAID 5.

“Our JetStors perform without incident, letting us focus on testing rather than managing our storage,” said Lowell. “We’re going to use several more to store virtual images that we’ll use for tests. With their speed and ease-of-use, we can ensure that our core learning application runs flawlessly for our faculty and students.

 
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