Australian council finds a new way to enable sustainable public services

Tamworth Regional Council increases efficiency with a data centre solution that significantly cuts management time for storage and backup processes

By Guest on 22 October 2015
Australian council finds a new way to enable sustainable public services

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2015 issue of OnWindows magazine.

When looking to refresh its existing infrastructure to support its primary data centre and disaster recovery site, Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) in New South Wales, Australia wanted to introduce more cost-efficient and scalable IT solutions.

The previous infrastructure had reached the end of its lifecycle, and TRC sought new ­enterprise-level technology that would help the organisation tackle the challenges it faced in areas such as storage and backup management, productivity and data restoration.

As part of the council’s search for a replacement solution, Daniel Murphy, TRC’s coordinator of IT Infrastructure and Support, visited the Dell Solution Center in Sydney, Australia. Here he learned about Dell Storage, Dell PowerEdge servers and the Dell AppAssure 5 backup software.

“We gained a good level of technical understanding from the Dell sales team, and we felt that the solutions on offer and the ­professional relationship between the two organisations would help provide TRC with a solid solution for the future,” Murphy says.

TRC’s IT team worked with a Dell Enterprise Deployment Team (EDT) to install an active-passive solution between two physical sites. The council deployed Dell Storage SC8000 arrays at both sites, connecting the storage solutions with the council’s own fibre channel link. Each array was loaded with around 40 terabytes (TBs) of storage composed of 15,000 RPM SAS and 10,000 RPM SATA disks.

The council also deployed Dell PowerEdge R620 servers, virtualised using Microsoft Hyper-V and running Windows Server 2012 R2. In addition, TRC deployed two Dell PowerEdge R720XD servers, one at each site, as backup servers running Dell AppAssure 5.

TRC is now able to expand the services it offers to the community and its staff. The council can meet its data growth demands while maintaining a level of service the community warrants, and has already taken on the IT systems of other councils in the region to provide them with IT solutions and services using Dell solutions.

“A key factor in choosing Dell Storage was the scalability of the platform,” Murphy says. “We have 80TB across the two arrays using 30TB of data, leaving us with ample capacity for the next three years. In addition, should the need arise, we can easily add more storage in the future.”

The new applications are enabling TRC’s staff to work more efficiently. The speed of the council’s storage and the power of its servers have notably increased since the move to Dell.

“We have significantly reduced performance delays with our heaviest business applications,” says Murphy. “Before, staff could be waiting up to 40 seconds between screens, but now it’s less than 10. This way, staff can focus on operational matters rather than on IT performance issues.”

Furthermore, with Dell ProSupport for Enterprise, the Dell storage solution is simpler to manage than it has been in the past.

“We spend significantly less time managing our Dell Storage platform compared with the previous platform, and I don’t expect many issues within the next few years thanks to its design and help from ProSupport,” says Murphy, whose team now has more time to work on strategic projects and provide vital services to the community.

Time is also being saved thanks to the automated data tiering capabilities of Dell Compellent Data Progression. Murphy says: “A higher proportion of our data is directed to slower spinning SATA disks. It means we can reduce spend on Tier 1 storage, lowering our IT costs over the long term.”

The performance of the council’s data backups has been improved, and with two instances of Dell AppAssure running on two PowerEdge backup servers – one at each site – TRC can quickly back up its virtual and physical servers and restore data much faster.

“Personnel no longer wait overnight for a file to be restored, so they work much more efficiently,” explains Murphy. “Before, it could take us eight hours to restore data, but with Dell AppAssure and the Dell Compellent relays it can be done in 10 minutes.”

AppAssure’s deduplication and compression technology also means the council can retain more data.

“We have achieved a deduplication rate of 40% and a compression rate of 72% with AppAssure,” Murphy says. “It has reduced the footprint of our backup, enabling us to keep around a year’s worth of data on our backup servers. So if a member of staff loses some fairly recent data, we are more likely to restore it quickly.”

Murphy is confident maximum value from the investment will be gained going forward. “Besides the quality of the Dell solution, it comes backed by effective services support. When we first looked at Dell Storage, for example, we were impressed with the Dell Compellent Copilot Support service,” he concludes. “It offered a comprehensive level of support, and our experience has been that Copilot is as good as we were told.”

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