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City of Coquitlam virtualizes its storage with Hitachi, Compugen

A desire to upgrade to the latest version of VMware led the city to virtualize its storage environment as well

The City of Coquitlam in British Columbia has implemented the Hitachi Universal Storage Platform VM from Hitachi Data Systems to help support a growing municipal IT infrastructure and to enable the municipality to upgrade to the latest revision of VMware.

Located just outside of Vancouver in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, the IT department at the City of Coquitlam supports 15 buildings across three city campuses, serving over 1,000 city employees and 125,000 citizens. It also owns QNet, its own optical fibre leasing company, which allows it to deliver carrier-grade fibre optic network access to city residents and businesses, and distribute storage systems across two city data centres.

Faced with growing service demands and the desire to upgrade from VMWare ESX 2.5 to ESX 3.0, the city recently turned to Hitachi to upgrade its storage infrastructure. Darren Browett, technical services manager for the City of Coquitlam, said the city first began working with Hitachi about four to five years ago when it moved to VMware and upgraded its storage at the same time, selecting Hitachi’s 9570 platform.

The project was facilitated by Compugen, the city’s preferred systems integrator. Browett explains that relationship came about through the city’s desktop refresh it does every four to five years.

“As part of the desktop refresh, we said whoever gives us the best price, we’ll also look at for professional services,” said Browett.

Compugen’s storage division brought in Hitachi, NetApp and IBM, but in the end Browett said they decided to go with Hitachi. Compugen was back one year ago when Coquitlam decided to upgrade its storage infrastructure to support an upgrade of its VMware infrastructure.

“Everything was running great with ESX 2.5 on Hitachi 9570, but we wanted to move to ESX 3.0 and it wasn’t certified for 9570, so we engaged Compugen,” said Browett, noting they did consider changing storage vendors. “As a local government we do need to do our due diligence, so we looked at features, options and costs.”

In the end, however, Browett said Coquitlam decided to stick with Hitachi, opting to upgrade to the Hitachi Universal Storage Platform VM.

“We’re a Hitachi customer so that helps, and the integration into the existing Hitachi SAN infrastructure was seamless. We also liked some of the features around thin provisioning and the virtualization engine,” said Browett.

Another selling-point for Coquitlam was the storage module unit. If something catastrophic happens, Browett said with Hitachi they can gain access to the system without the primary system in place, something he said wouldn’t be possible with other systems.

With the combination of the new Hitachi platform and VMware’s Esx 3.0, Browett said his users are no longer impacted by firmware upgrades or maintenance done by the IT department, and performance won’t be impacted.

Andrew Packard, enterprise solutions manager, enterprise server and storage solutions group at Compugen, said Coquitlam, a long-time Compugen customer, had certain ideas around what it was looking for in terms of reliability, availability and scalability. He said they also liked that Compugen offered full pre and post-sales support and implementation and migration, so they don’t just recommend solutions for customers but do the heavy-lifting as well.

“We had the background to compare Hitachi to IBM SAN Volume Controller or NetApp V-Series because we’ve done the gambit,” said Packard. “They appreciated that experience and that we really stay on the evaluation side, with the customer, during the process.”

Working with a public sector client is a little different than working with private sector customers, said Packard.

“The process is slightly more rigid in terms of what you need to accomplish, more formal,” said Packard. “We were an existing supplier so from an IT perspective we’ve been integral not just on this portion of the business but in servers as well, and we try to make the right decision on the partnering side with the proper vendor.”

Coquitlam’s Browett said the city’s relationship with Compugen has been strong.

“Compugen has been great, we have a really good relationship with Compugen,” said Browett. “They listen to my needs and they’ve been very responsive to what we need to do to move things forward. If there are problems or issues they work to resolve those.”

Chris Willis, senior director of solutions consulting for HDS Canada, said storage virtualization technology is beginning to bring capabilities to small municipalities and businesses that were once the purview of enterprise companies, and municipalities in particular are really beginning to embrace the value of virtualization.

“Being in the Canadian market we can’t expect to have the scale of the U.S., but we do have some of the same challenges,” said Willis. “Data centres are getting larger and the price point for solutions is getting lower, and the two are converging together.”

The public sector, including municipal, provincial and federal, is a large portion of Compugen’s business and the municipal segment in particular is growing, said Willis.

“We’ve always been big. The challenge is to be small enough to scale down and (Hitachi Universal Storage Platform VM) does that,” said Willis.