Monday, October 3, 2011

Assignment from Education Client Involved Data Center Refresh, SAN Implementation

Making the Grade in Server Design

Nationwide, charter schools have been embraced as an educational alternative. For one of MicroAge’s clients, growth has been impressive: as the operator of a couple of dozen schools around the country, the client has had to catch up quickly to its own success!

With the volume of users increasing from a few hundred to more than 2,500, the client realized that the timely addition of new servers, server consolidation, implementing back-up and disaster recovery systems, and installing other mission-critical aspects were all essential to avoid system overloads.
Faced with this need, the newly hired CIO of this organization called MicroAge. As I quickly found out, his needs were complex:
  • In addition to a complete refresh of his data center, they were moving it to another state AND building a second data center in yet a third state.
  • They had a headquarters facility in – are you keeping track? – a fourth state, AND were in the midst of building another corporate facility in the general locale of one of their data centers.
  • Oh, and just to make it interesting, this all had to be accomplished in three months! A very aggressive timeline for such a major rollout.
As proactive as the client’s business plan was, there were physical limitations to increasing network capability. So while server consolidation, disaster recovery, improved switches and firewalls were top of mind, there was very limited room to actually install anything. Given both the sense of urgency and space limitations, it was clear that I needed to conduct a site inspection in order to provide an optimal solution.

After visiting the client and reviewing all timelines, space restraints and budget sensitivities, I determined that HP’s BladeSystem server product was an ideal solution: its design permits stacking in racks and efficiently uses space. With the BladeSystem in place, we then selected Baracuda network products for content security, networking, data storage, and data protection. They were an excellent fit for the customer’s needs. Finally, the support of a Cisco network backbone to manage all SAN requirements completed the overall technology architecture.

Once coordination was completed with all manufacturers, I mapped out a detailed presentation of the overall solution, complete with budget, project milestones, and space considerations. The client was very enthusiastic and approval to move forward was immediate.

Once a solution is approved, we partner closely with the customer until every aspect of the solution is complete. In this case, along with coordinating vendors, project schedules and the like, I brought in HP Financial Services to arrange for the lease of the all of the equipment. And this was not your typical lease, due to the array of manufacturers involved and the two separate data center locations.

Since implementation, the solution has effectively met the client’s needs, scaling to meet its continued growth. The engagement was so successful that the client has since chosen MicroAge to provide additional solutions in turnkey SAN implementation, WAN optimization and SAN disaster recovery. I guess you could say that MicroAge earned an “A” this time around!

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