The City of Eden Prarie, Minnesota, is home to more than 62,000 people and about 2,200 businesses, including the Minnesota Vikings National Football League franchise. Located just southwest of the Minneapolis‐St.Paul metro area, the city boasts 4,500 acres of open space, including parks, lakes, and 200 miles of trails. Recognized on Money magazine's list of America's "best Places to Live," Eden Prairie offers attractive neighborhoods, affordable housing, excellent schools, dozens of hotels and award winning restaurants, and a superregional shopping center. (www.edenprarie.org)
Implement storage to complement VMware efficiencies and boost performance and availability for critical city services In 2006, Eden Prairie scored a top‐ten ranking on Money magazine's "Best places to live" list. The city's "2008 Quality of Life Survey" (conducted by Decisions Resources, Ltd.) found that 98% of residents rate Eden Prairie's quality of life as good or excellent.
How does one of the best cities in the country keep getting better? For his part, Ryan Browning, a network systems analyst in the city's IT division, suggests that success comes from a continued focus on improving services and efficiency. The Eden Prairie IT organization, for example, works closely with city departments – community development, parks and recreation, public works, police and fire – to assess needs and to identify the best, more cost‐effective solutions.
Recently the IT division was challenged to improve the performance, availability, and recoverability of systems supporting the city's police and fire dispatch center. With public safety at stake, dispatchers must be operational 24x7, particularly during a major incident when a fast, coordinated emergency response saves lives.
Browning relates that the existing infrastructure, based on physical services with direct‐attached storage (DAS_, hindered IT's ability to protect critical data and application services. Backups were increasingly slow and capacity‐hungry, and server recovery after a failure event could take up to 24 hours. Maintaining consistent performance was also costly – application vendors encouraged avoiding resource conflicts by isolating each critical application on its own server. The result was wasted system resources, with server utilization dipping as low as 5% on many systems, and local‐disk utilization averaging 35%.
Standardize on NetApp for performance, business continuance, and efficiencies
To make the improvements necessary to support the 24x7 needs of the dispatch center and to better serve all departments of the city, the Eden Prairie IT team presented a plan for Transitioning to a virtualized‐server environment with centralized storage, Requirements for storage included faster end‐user performance, backup, and recovery; automated and affordable disaster recovery; improved utilization; and cost efficiency.
Enlisting the services of VMPowered, an authorized VMware consultant, and Northland Systems, a NetApp Platinum Partner and provider of virtualization solutions, Browning's team designed and deployed a VMware solution built on
NetApp® storage. "We evaluated storage proposals that included solutions based on NetApp and four of its major competitors," cost‐effective, manageable solutions, as well as field‐proven excellence in single‐box support for multiprotocol access. The storage alternatives we considered at the time had shortcomings in this area, lacked other key functionality, and/or did not propose a cost‐effective approach. NetApp met all requirements for performance,
business continuance, and efficiencies. "Working with Northland Systems and VMPowered also meant smooth implementtation. From sizing the project to helping us come up to speed on the technology, their efforts allowed us to make the transition with no disruptions to ongoing business."
Today the City of Eden Prairie has standardized on NetApp Unified Storage Architecture. A NetApp high‐availability FAS2050 system at city hall provides 20TB of capacity for user file shares (SATA disk accessed via CIFS protocol) and the VMware environment (ASA disk via iSCSI) deployed on two ESX hosts running 24 virtual machines. Applications in the VMware environment include Microsoft® Exchange Server 2007, SWL Server®, and standby Windows® XP workstations preinstalled with dispatching applications for rapid access in a disaster event; SQL‐based police, fire, and recreation management, and SIRE Technologies document imaging systems; ESRI ArcGIS Server with ArcSDE technology; and multiple Web, print, and network monitoring and management servers.
For disaster recovery, primary‐site data (including virtual machines and CIFS volumes) is replicated hourly via NetApp SnapMirror® technology to a NetApp FAS2020 system at the disaster recovery location. In addition to enabling rapid data recovery in the event of a primary‐site disaster, the FAS2020 system with 17TB of capacity also serves as primary storage for test environments and supports an additional ESX server.
"Faster, better" service
Since deploying the VMware on NetApp infrastructure, the City of Eden Prairie has benefited from more responsive application services. Browning explains, "It takes just minutes to deploy server and storage resources, and the performance and availability improvements we've achieved enhance operations considerably. We're also able to maintain application isolation while maximizing resource efficiency. Applications and processes simply run faster, better, and smoother in the new infrastructure.
"Most notable is the performance we're achieving for core applications like Exchange and ArcGIS. Based on system audits we did upfront with Northland Systems, we expected that implementing VMware over NetApp iSCSI
would meet our performance requirements, even though competing vendors disagreed. Results since we deployed the NetApp based solutions have borne out our original performance estimates – in fact, the speed we're seeing from our virtual servers and storage has exceeded expectations."
Eden Prairie makes heavy use of NetApp Snapshot technology, which allows IT to perform instant backups while applications are running and with no performance hit. Browning says that functionality also differentiates the NetApp solution. "while we could make snapshot copies in the old environment, the process was neither fast nor space efficient. Of the storage solutions we considered, NetApp delivered the most functional point‐in‐time copy technology."
Availability to support critical 24x7 operations
Because NetApp Snapshot copies requireminimal storage space, Eden Prairie IT maintains more online backups. Browning elaborates, "Before Netapp, we filled available snapshot storage with just 60 online back‐ups – that's 2 snapshots per day for 30 days. Today, with NetApp space efficiency, we maintain a week's worth of 4 daily Snapshot copies and more than 2 months' worth of 2 daily Snapshot copies. That's more than double the number of online backups, and we haven't begun to push capacity limits. In the past, we had to go back to tape for more than 75% of our data recoveries. Today it's closer to 5%. And a recovery that might have taken 20 minutes from tape now takes 1
or 2 minutes."
Eden Prairie has experienced no NetApp related application downtime since the solution was deployed in 2007. Browning notes that the IT team did complete a firmware upgrade that required a restart. But instead of taking critical applications offline for the hour that the process required, IT simply migrated those virtual machines to the DR site, ran production from there during the upgrade and restart, and then migrated the servers back to the primary site.
Most importantly, emphasizes Lisa Wu, the city's information technology manager, the new infrastructure means that the city can maintain critical services 24x7, even in the event of a major site disaster. "The VMware on NetApp solution allows us to recover critical police and fire applications in less than an hour with minimal data loss, so we know that we can keep essential operations like emergency dispatch services up and running when they're most needed. Furthermore, because we use the same architecture at our DR site, familiar interfaces will contribute to a more seamless recovery."
The NetApp solution allows Eden Prairie to protect critical services will achieving cost efficiencies through various means, including deploying an affordably sized, dual‐use disaster recovery system; leveraging economical SATA disk drives for user fileshares; implementing space‐efficient NetApp SnapMirror and Snapshot replication technologies; and reducing energy usage. Browning notes that NetApp deduplication technology has been another huge plus, contributing capacity savings across data stores, with up to 75% realized on VMware LUNs. Additional saving comes from using NetApp thin provisioning on 60% to 70% of the same LUNs. "These two technologies alone have allowed us to avoid two years' worth of new‐capacity purchases."
The IT division currently manages 37TB of NetApp capacity with just 0.20 FTE. "We've doubled capacity and simultaneously reduced administration by 50%," Browning says. "And resources. By deploying VMware on NetApp we've avoided some $60,000 in new servers and storage spending, as well as associated operating expenses for those systems that would have been require to support projected growth over the next 5 years."
A future of opportunities
Beyond meeting current needs for performance, availability, and cost efficiencies, the VMware on NetApp infrastructure provides a highly scalable foundation for future projects. Browning offers two examples. "By the end of 2009, we expect to roll out a New Rold Systems public safty and dispatch solution that is current testing in our VMware environment. Having the flexibility of the virtual infrastructure, highly scalable storage, and a disaster recovery solution in place are critical to the success of this project.
“We’re also considering adding video applications – for example, building security and squad‐car systems‐ that would have required costly upgrades in our old environment. Because of NetApp efficiencies, we can add data‐intensive applications without major system upgrades. In these days of shrinking budgets, it’s essentials to be able to fully utilize your server and storage resources. That efficiency means that the City of Eden Prairie can continue to deliver the best possible services to the community.”