Fibre Channel RAID: When Bandwidth Matters

Fibre Channel RAID

Big data is commonly perceived as large data sets comprised of multitudinous small files. Often, however, big data’s data sets contain files that are relatively few in number, but very large in size. This is particularly true for companies in such businesses as video production. Video files have always been large, and the increasing resolution of video formats renders them even larger. Production houses can routinely generate terabytes of video every week. Editing these files, along with other post-production work, demands storage with exceptional I/O capabilities.

Another video application that is growing rapidly and challenging storage solutions is video surveillance. Recordings made by surveillance cameras can be hours if not days in length and their improving resolution further swells the size of the files. Video surveillance systems, especially those with multiple cameras, put great pressure on a storage system’s I/O capabilities.

What to do? Fibre Channel RAID platforms deliver the throughput to meet such needs. They can ingest and serve up vast amounts of data, making them ideal for storing and working with high-definition or multi-camera video feeds. Moreover, they feature lossless operation, eliminating such issues as dropped packets. With FC RAID arrays, users are assured of storing every single pixel.

Such reliable, high performance can serve other I/O-intensive applications as well, such as server and desktop virtualizations. The infamous boot storms of virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI) can overwhelm all but the most robust storage solutions. If you want to do video editing or support scores of virtual applications on multiple physical servers all without latency, look into FC RAID arrays. In addition to their impressive throughput, they also can be flexible, highly reliable solutions.

[case study] Penn State’s ANGEL Learning Management Suite Test Site

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 Smith, 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 Smith. “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 Smith. “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 Smith. “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 Smith.

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 Smith. “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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[case study] Telecom Data Storage – Economical Server Storage

Consolidated Communications must store a wide range of data at its data centers. These data, unstructured and structured, run a gamut of use cases. Despite its challenging storage needs, Consolidated wanted to avoid the costs and complexity of traditional storage area networks (SANs). Instead, it deployed SANsymphony-V from DataCore, a software solution that utilizes an innovative storage hypervisor.

Anchoring the DataCore SANsymphony-V solution with JetStor platforms proved to be a winning combination for Consolidated Communications. The telecomm provider avoided the expense of deploying high-end storage systems at its data centers while obtaining the control, performance, and reliability to meet its business and operational needs.

Read more below about how Consolidated Communications found the ideal solution with JetStor RAID Arrays and DataCore SANsymphony-V to support the most demanding applications in virtualized storage environments.

JetStor® RAID Arrays and DataCore SANsymphony-V Software Offer Telecom Provider an Economical, Reliable Storage Solution

THE ORGANIZATION

With roots dating back to the founding of the Mattoon Telephone Company in 1894, Consolidated Communications, based in Mattoon, Illinois, is the 7th largest telecommunications company in the US. With a goal of “connecting people, enriching lives,” Consolidated offers a full range of services to residential and business customers in California, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Texas, and Pennsylvania. Though it provided telephone services for most of its history, the enterprise now offers television services, including video on demand and programming to mobile devices, and Internet connectivity, including online backup and file sharing. The company employs some 1,700 people in the six states in which it operates.

THE CHALLENGE

Consolidated Communications must store a wide range of data at its data centers. This data, unstructured and structured, runs the gamut of use cases. “Our data stores span every application, from email to virtual machines and web servers,” said Jeff Fuesting, network engineer for Consolidated Communications. “This mixed workload puts a lot of pressure on storage environments.”

Despite its challenging storage needs, Consolidated wanted to avoid the costs and complexity of traditional storage area networks (SANs). Instead, it deployed SANsymphony-V from DataCore, a software solution that utilizes an innovative storage hypervisor. The application provides the tools, resources, and functionality to create, manage, and scale virtualized storage infrastructures. The telecom provider then needed storage platforms as the back-end for its virtualized storage solution. The systems had to provide robust, reliable, high-speed performance to support Consolidated’s data loads, but they also needed to be flexible and affordable.

We wanted RAID arrays that would support generic drives to save money, but we found such solutions to be rare,” explained Fuesting. “Systems from big name storage providers work only with their drives, which drives up costs. We didn’t want the expense of being rigidly locked into a vendor’s ecosystem.”

THE SOLUTION

Six JetStor SAS 716S 16-bay RAID Arrays, four JetStor SAS 716J 16-bay JBOD Arrays, and two JetStor SAS 742S V2 42-bay RAID Arrays from Advanced Computer & Network Corporation (AC&NC). A High-Performance, Low-Cost Storage Environment AC&NC JetStor SAS 716J JBODs 6 Gbit/sec. SAS links  6 Gbit/sec. SAS links IBM x3650 M3 servers & HP DL380P G8 servers running the DataCore SANsymphony-V storage hypervisor AC&NC JetStor SAS 716S RAID Arrays AC&NC JetStor SAS 742S RAID Arrays

SYSTEM CONFIGURATION

BENEFITS IMMEDIATELY REALIZED

Anchoring the DataCore SANsymphony-V solution with JetStor platforms proved to be a winning combination for Consolidated Communications. The telecom provider avoided the expense of deploying high-end storage systems at its data centers while obtaining the control, performance, and reliability to meet its business and operational needs.

The JetStor platforms are an exceptional fit with DataCore SANsymphony-V,” said Fuesting. “They comprise such a robust, function-rich storage solution that they are practically seamless for us.” By supporting generic hard drives, the JetStor RAID arrays enabled the company to save approximately 50 percent over the costs of traditional storage environments and avoid committing to proprietary technologies.

With some drives costing up to five times more than others, our ability to use third-party drives impacts our bottom line,” adds Fuesting. Consolidated deployed four JetStor SAS 716S 16-bay arrays in its regional office in Pittsburgh and two in a Texas data center. The systems provide outstanding data protection thanks to features like a cable-less design, dual hot-swappable power supplies, and hot-swappable drives with automatic rebuilding of data on new drives. Moreover, for extraordinary scalability, the solutions each support up to six JBODs (just a bunch of disks) for up to 448 terabytes of capacity. The enterprise already links a pair of JetStor SAS 716J 16-bay JBODs at its two sites.

With the JetStor systems having proven themselves for reliable, economical performance, Consolidated is deploying two JetStor SAS 742S RAID arrays at a California data center. The high-density solutions offer 42 bays for up to 168 terabytes of capacity in a 4U chassis. The company will also implement its JetStor/DataCore solution at data centers in Illinois and Kansas.

HOW WE DID IT

Consolidated engineered its storage environments for speed, economy, and data protection. The company runs the SANsymphony-V application on two IBM x3650 M3 servers at its Pittsburgh data center that directly attach to two JetStor 716S arrays via 6 gigabit/second SAS connections. These in turn link to two JetStor 716J JBODs at the same speed. All data is mirrored The front (top) and back (bottom) of Consolidated Communications’ JetStor SAS 716S RAID Arrays and JetStor SAS 716J JBOD Arrays. on the two pairs of JetStor 716S and their JBODs. Each side has 18.73 terabytes of storage capacity with approximately nine terabytes used.

The Texas data center has two mirrored JetStor 716S arrays, each with a JetStor 716J JBOD. They have 13.6 terabytes of storage, of which half is currently used. The Texas data center has two mirrored JetStor 742S chassis that directly attach to HP DL380P servers running SANsymphony-V. Each array presently has 12 terabytes of capacity, which will increase over time.

All of the JetStor storage arrays are configured for RAID 5, ensuring data is protected even if a disk fails. Administrators rely on the browser-based JetStor RAID Manager application to administer the storage platforms and notify them via e-mail should issues arise.

CONCLUSION

Consolidated Communications found the JetStor RAID arrays to be the ideal complement for DataCore SANsymphony-V. Even in the firm’s dynamic data centers, they deliver the throughput to support the most demanding applications in virtualized storage environments. “JetStor products give us rock-solid reliability and the freedom to choose cost-effective disks that meet our needs, not the vendor’s,” said Fuesting. “It’s hard to find such flexibility, excellent service, and warranty in affordable devices. And we looked.”


 

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[case study] Virtualization – Server Consolidation

Server Consolidation - VirtualizationServer virtualization reduces data-center costs and overhead, but not without demands. When a physical server houses multiple virtual servers, much more data streams from the device, requiring very fast storage solutions.

The Elliott Company, a leading manufacturer of advanced industrial turbomachinery, consolidated its servers to efficiently deliver such applications as financials, HR, payroll, and sophisticated engineering systems. It sought robust storage to sustain its virtualized environment, but without the complexity and expense of Fibre Channel solutions.

Read more below about how the Elliott Company built high-speed storage farms with iSCSI JetStor RAID Arrays to support virtualization effectively and affordably.

Leading Manufacturer Simplifies & Economizes Using JetStor® RAID Solutions with Virtual Machines

THE ORGANIZATION

As a leading manufacturer of advanced turbomachinery, the Elliott Company helps to power the world. Its products, such as centrifugal and axial compressors, steam turbines, and power recovery expanders, are used to produce, transport, and refine oil and natural gas. They also convert feedstock into polymers, resins, films, fibers and chemicals, generate electricity, and drive compressors, pumps, blowers, fans, and other industrial machinery.

THE CHALLENGE

Elliott’s data center at the firm’s primary manufacturing site in Jeannette, Pennsylvania confronted the same issues that eventually bedevil most large enterprises. It ran essential administrative applications like financials, HR, and payroll as well as the engineering systems on numerous discrete servers that were time-consuming to manage, costly to operate, and nearing the end of their lifecycles. To streamline its storage and backup services, Elliott wanted to trim its server farm by deploying VMware solutions. However, it required high-speed, continuously available storage repositories capable of ingesting the same volumes of data, but from fewer servers. For further cost-savings, it also wanted to use iSCSI for its storage connectivity to avoid the expense of Fiber Channel links.

THE SOLUTION

Seven JetStor SAS 516iS 16-bay RAID Arrays and one JetStor SAS 516J 3U 16-bay solution from Advanced Computer & Network Corporation (AC&NC).

SYSTEM CONFIGURATION

  • Four rack-mounted Dell PowerEdge 2950 servers at the data center and three Dell PowerEdge 2900 tower servers at the disaster recovery (DR) site
  • Four gigabit Ethernet switches, two at the data center and two at the DR site
  • Seven JetStor SAS 516iS 16 bay RAID Arrays: four at the data center with gigabit iSCSI links to each switch for 12TB of storage capacity; and three at the DR site with gigabit iSCSI links to each switch for 16TB of storage
  • One JetStor SAS 516J 3U 16 bay unit at the DR site linked to a JetStor SAS 516iS solution
  • VMware® ESX 3.5

BENEFITS IMMEDIATELY REALIZED

Elliott built a robust infrastructure to house administrative and engineering data for many of its 1,900 employees at 32 facilities across the globe. Four JetStor 516iS arrays rapidly store data at the firm’s data center. This information is backed up to three JetStor 516iS arrays and a JetStor SAS 516J device at a DR site. “To maintain daily operations and meet regulatory compliance, our business data must always be stored, backed-up, and available,” said Richard Bollinger, technology manager for Elliott. “AC&NC’s JetStor 516iS arrays deliver the high-speed storage performance to support a global enterprise like ours.

The AC&NC solutions anchor Elliott’s strategy for streamlining its IT operations. The firm now runs most of its key business applications on four servers with multiple virtual machines, which forward data to the JetStor arrays for safekeeping. As a result, Elliott retired its older servers and slashed complexity as well as power and cooling costs. Elliott further economized by eliminating the need for Fibre Channel switches and HBAs, and cabling thanks to the support of the JetStor solutions for iSCSI connectivity.

Moreover, Elliott administrators can easily add additional drives to the 16 bays of each JetStor enclosure without taking the device offline, or attach four JetStor SAS 516J systems to each chassis to add up to 80 drives to the infrastructure. “Thanks to AC&NC, we can incrementally expand our storage capacity quickly, easily, and very cost-effectively,” said Bollinger.

The IT staff relies on the web-based management interface of the AC&NC devices to monitor the status and performance of each array. “AC&NC solutions are rock-solid, but I have additional peace of mind knowing they will automatically send me an email if a problem ever arises,” added Bollinger.

HOW WE DID IT

Tasked with delivering business-critical applications and storing their data more efficiently and reliably, Elliott’s IT staff consolidated its aging servers onto a handful of devices running over 75 virtual machines. It then linked each VMware server to a pair of switches with dual gigabit iSCSI connections. The switches, in turn, link to four JetStor 516iS arrays, also via dual gigabit iSCSI connections.

Administrators used the JetStor management system to deploy a RAID 10 (or 1+0) configuration. This strategy both mirrors and stripes data on each array’s disks for the highest level of availability and input/output performance. The IT team created a logical drive out of the physical disks and used VMware’s iSCSI initiator to designate it as the target for the iSCSI links. RAID 10 coupled with the redundant links between the arrays, switches, and servers ensures that data is always safe and flowing. Moreover, RAID 10 provides unsurpassed data protection by tolerating multiple simultaneous drive failures without downtime or data loss.

“Our infrastructure doesn’t have a single point of failure, which prevents any disruptions to our business processes” explained Bollinger. “In addition, connecting our JetStor arrays with conventional gigabit NICs gave us excellent capacity at minimum cost while eliminating the headache and learning curve of installing Fibre Channel hardware and cabling.”

Elliott deployed a similar architecture at its DR site, except it connected the JetStor SAS 516J as a JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks) to a JetStor 516iS for further cost-savings. The firm replicates data to the DR site via gigabit Ethernet switches after local backups are completed. “With our AC&NC solutions, we can add a vast amount of JBOD storage to our system,” said Bollinger. “This offers a terrific storage value for any enterprise without compromising performance or dependability.”

CONCLUSION

“When it comes to the safety and protection of our data, we knew we could depend on the performance and quality of AC&NC solutions,” concluded Bollinger. “They’re priced very competitively and are easy to deploy and operate, making my job easier. We gained very robust storage repositories to buttress our new server cluster that make us more efficient and productive.”

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[case study] HD 3D Film Production Data Storage

THE ORGANIZATION

Film Production Data StorageEvergreen Studios is a visionary production company that finances and develops premium content, and builds narrative worlds for theatrical, television, comics, web, mobile and video game platforms. The Los Angeles-based company is best known for its unique development skills, proprietary technical offerings and utilization of emerging technologies to advance its production process and storytelling capabilities. Evergreen works with some of the most renowned creative talent in the entertainment industry to extend the consumer experience and tell stories beyond their native platforms. It has also produced several television shows for Discovery Channel and Syfy and most recently, Evergreen joined forces with 20th Century Fox for the 2013 animated feature film, Walking with Dinosaurs, which revitalized the BBC franchise.

THE CHALLENGE 

As a production company, Evergreen Studios has robust storage demands. It needs to safely house large files of high-definition footage that represent many thousands of dollars of production costs. It also must stream these files to workstations for online and offline editing and post-production work. Online editing is done with footage directly from the camera whereas offline editing uses lower quality proxies that consume less bandwidth. Edits done to the offline footage are then transferred to the online footage.

Evergreen used enterprise-class storage for much of its online editing, but these solutions are very expensive to buy and maintain. It had relied on less costly storage systems for its offline work, but these lacked the reliability that the studio demanded.

“We needed a secure, cost-effective solution for storing hundreds of terabytes of production data,” said Jamie Evans, Post Production Manager for Evergreen Studios. “This storage, however, needs to have extraordinary throughput. 3D content, for example, entails two streams of uncompressed video, one for each eye. Working on these projects is like doing two online edits at the same time.”

Evergreen Studios required storage platforms for its multimedia production work that are not only very fast, but also as reliable as its high-end solutions and much less expensive to own.

THE SOLUTION 

Four JetStor SAS 742F 42-bay FC RAID Arrays, two JetStor SAS 716F 16-bay RAID Arrays, and one JetStor SAS 724F 24-bay FC RAID Array from Advanced Computer & Network Corporation (AC&NC).

SYSTEM CONFIGURATION

  • Four JetStor SAS 742F 42-bay FC RAID Arrays
  • Two JetStor SAS 716F 16-bay RAID Arrays
  • One JetStor SAS 724F 24-bay FC RAID Array
  • Two Brocade 5300 SAN Switches

BENEFITS IMMEDIATELY REALIZED

Evergreen Studios met its needs and then some by replacing its legacy, mid-tier storage products with JetStor platforms. At any given time, the production company stores about half a petabyte of video and multimedia data on its seven JetStor RAID arrays, consuming only half their total capacity.

Key for Evergreen Studios is the performance that the JetStor chassis deliver. It found that they can provide throughout of up to one gigabyte per second and the JetStor SAS 724F RAID Array, which is provisioned with ultra-fast solid-state drives (SSDs), can hit speeds of two gigabytes per second. The production company intended to use the arrays for offline work, but the systems deliver enough speed for online editing as well.

“Although our JetStor solutions are far less costly than our high-end storage, we ended up using them in the same way,” explained Evans. “We’re just as comfortable with the JetStor arrays for editing and post-production work as we are with our enterprise-class systems. This is true of even 3D content.”

Additionally, the JetStor platforms are nearly as reliable as Evergreen’s top-tier storage solutions. Moreover, the JetStor chassis are provisioned with off-the-shelf, third-party drives whereas the high-end systems require expensive, proprietary drives that must be ordered from the vendor. Consequently, the production company can afford to keep spare drives for its JetStor arrays should one need to be replaced.

“When we need a new drive for our enterprise storage, the system could be in a degraded state for days if not a week while we await a replacement, which is scary,” said Evans. “Not so with our JetStor solutions. Their downtime is minimal and I can service them myself, which is a big plus. Getting this rapid replacement time from our enterprise vendor would mean paying a lot more for elevated support.”

Evans adds that the drives on JetStor chassis are hot swappable. He simply inserts a new drive and the platform automatically rebuilds the data.

“I like the JetStor way of doing business,” said Evans. “The upfront investment is much less, as are the operational costs. They deliver a strong price per gigabyte of storage without compromising performance or availability.”

HOW WE DID IT

Evergreen Studios deploys its JetStor systems in a robust storage area network (SAN). It installed four JetStor SAS 742F 42-bay FC RAID Arrays that are provisioned with either three or four terabyte drives. These are particularly high density, power efficient platforms. The company also uses two JetStor SAS 716F 16-bay RAID Arrays with three terabyte drives, and one JetStor SAS 724F 24-bay FC RAID Array with SSDs. All have dual power supplies and all but the JetStor 724F platform are configured for RAID 5. Each device has redundant 8 gigabit per second Fibre Channel links to two Brocade 5300 SAN switches.

The production company uses the RAID Manager application to configure and administer its JetStor solutions. RAID Manager helps to reduce downtime by emailing administrators with alerts of any issues, enabling prompt servicing.

CONCLUSION 

Evergreen Studio’s JetStor solutions are an ideal complement to its high-end storage system. They furnish all the speed and dependability needed for sophisticated feature-film editing and production, and do so more economically than high-end systems.

“JetStor arrays provide value, especially compared to costlier enterprise-class solutions,” concluded Evans.  “They offer massive storage with outstanding throughput at a much better price point.”

ABOUT ADVANCED COMPUTER & NETWORK CORPORATION (AC&NC) 

Advanced Computer & Network Corporation designs, manufactures and markets high-performance, competitively priced data storage RAID systems. With an extensive line of Fibre Channel, NAS, DAS, and hybrid flash storage solutions for any computing platform and operating system, comprehensive free technical support, and fast on-time product deliveries, AC&NC brings freedom of choice to all clients, from workgroup to enterprise. Our RAID systems ensure rapid, round-the-clock access to all of the information our customers rely on to move forward in the 21st century.