Named after the Clackamas tribe of Aboriginal Americans and home of Mt. Hood, Clackamas County in north central Oregon is one of the counties that make up the Portland, Ore., metropolitan area. The county’s data storage capacity has more than doubled annually for the last few years, creating performance issues and serious management challenges for a lean IT organization with a shrinking budget.
- Handle data storage growth more than doubling each year
- Eliminate downtime from server/data migrations
- Reduce storage management burden on IT staff
- Meet storage and DR mandates while maintaining zero budget growth
- F5 ARX1000 cluster and Data Manager
- Automated storage tiering, storage load balancing, and data migration policies
- Data Domain DD 500 Series Appliance
- Reclaimed 10TB of primary storage
- Disruption-free data migration
- Simplified data management
- Improved planning with better storage environment visibility
In just four years, data storage at Clackamas County jumped from 4TB to more than 50TB, fueled in part by a county-wide document imaging initiative. Some departments have assigned full-time resources to scan documents, and they are generating several gigabytes of .TIF images each daily, in addition to the data created as a result of normal business operations. While the initiative is reducing the cost of producing and storing paper documents, it has put pressure on the county’s Windows file servers and Dell EqualLogic iSCSI storage area network (SAN).
The file servers were often overloaded, and migrations required user downtime. Without a dedicated storage administrator, the IT organization was struggling under the data management burden. The backup system was also being strained to the limit by the sheer volume of data.
A disaster recovery (DR) initiative was another contributing factor to the rapid storage growth. The county requires that two copies of all data be maintained to ensure recoverability from any point, which essentially doubles its storage requirements.
“We were dealing with pretty significant data growth, aging file servers, disruptions to users whenever we had to do a migration, and facilitating DR/high availability without a DR budget,” recalls Christopher Fricke, senior IT administrator at Clackamas County. “We came to the conclusion that the traditional method of buying more disk just wasn’t going to cut it anymore.”
The IT organization has begun to centralize all of its services and is moving forward with a strategy to virtualize its servers and storage. Deduplication storage via Data Domain also plays an important role in further reducing capacity requirements. When Fricke discovered the F5 ARX intelligent file virtualization solution, he realized that “it fit perfectly into the puzzle. It is the enabler that makes it all work together.”
Clackamas County purchased two ARX1000 devices and virtualized its file storage environment, creating a Global Namespace, which represents a federation of multiple file systems. This makes it easy to move files at will, without disruption, and enabled Fricke’s team to put ARX automated storage tiering policies in place to address all of the county’s most pressing storage problems.
The ARX devices work seamlessly with EqualLogic and Data Domain devices to satisfy the county’s DR mandate. “The storage devices provide the volume replication and ARX gives us high availability--different but complimentary aspects of the same DR plan,” he explains.
Fricke worked closely with his F5 implementation team on the advance planning and upfront design. The actual implementation took just one day and went seamlessly, he says.
“It really could not have been easier. The migration from the physical file server to the Global Namespace took 30 minutes and was done,” he recalls.
ARX has played a key role in enabling Clackamas County to double its server capacity and support its DR requirements while maintaining a zero growth budget.
The tiered storage strategy ARX facilitated has reclaimed valuable primary storage capacity, made data migrations seamless and non-disruptive to users, and enabled the county to defer additional disk purchases. One Data Domain appliance provides efficient, disk-based backup, while the other system is used for Tier 3 archival storage.
By replicating the backup and archival data between the two Data Domain systems, located in each of the county’s data center locations, the IT organization can meet is service level agreement (SLA) to maintain multiple copies of data for compliance and DR purposes.
Reclaim Valuable Primary Storage
As part of the planning process, the team conducted a file system inventory assessment using F5 Data Manager. This powerful management tool provides visibility into the file storage environment and helped Clackamas County see which file types were being created, who was creating them, how quickly they were aging, and which resources they consumed.
“We found that 85% to 90% of our data wasn’t being used. It was just sitting there doing nothing. That was a real eye-opener. We needed to do something,” Fricke says.
Using ARX, Clackamas County implemented a tiered storage strategy that keeps only data that is 0 – 60 days old on Tier 1 Windows file servers connected to high-performance SAS disk drives on its iSCSI SAN. Data that is 61 – 120 days old is stored on Tier 2 file servers connected to cost-effective Serial ATA (SATA) drives on the SAN.
All data older than 120 days is archived on the Tier 3 Data Domain deduplication and storage appliance. Today, about 90% of file data resides on Tier 3 Data Domain archival storage. When a file on Tier 2 or Tier 3 is modified, it is automatically moved back to Tier 1.
The data movement between all three tiers occurs automatically as files age, using ARX automated management policies. ARX automatically balances the storage capacity and performance on all servers in a virtual storage pool, eliminating bottlenecks and protecting against failover.
“Now, Tier 1 and Tier 2 hold less than 10% of our data at any given time,” Fricke says. “We immediately shrank capacity by 10 terabytes with the tiering strategy, and I expect to see further reductions as we roll this out across the organization.”
Migrate Data Without Impacting Users
Before implementing ARX, migrations were disruptive and time-consuming. Since Windows clusters cannot be grown dynamically, servers that reached capacity had to be taken offline, which created downtime for users. Even just moving subsets of data to free space caused downtime and also required retraining so users knew how to access their files in the new location.
With ARX, migrations can take place at any time—even during normal business hours—without affecting client access and without requiring client reconfiguration.
“We had a server with a hardware problem, so we connected it to our iSCSI SAN and then had ARX migrate the data off the old failing server to the new one as a background process on the fly,” Fricke recalls. “The data set contained images for workstation and server deployment. Our TechBench continued deploying PCs while the data was being migrated. This stuff works.”
Defer Additional Capacity Purchases
By leveraging the power of file virtualization and deduplication, Fricke is confident that the IT organization will be able to meet its anticipated storage requirements through 2010 and fulfill the DR mandate without acquiring more storage.
“We have to squeeze everything we can out of what we have because we don’t have budget for the next two years. File virtualization and deduplication are going to help us do that,” Fricke says. “We can absorb demand for capacity without having to buy anything new. We actually expect to have fewer file servers in the long run because the only reason to add more is when we need more space, and we don’t anticipate that we’ll need more space.”
For more information, visit F5 ARX