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Solid state drives in data center lower infrastructure cost and improve performance

During the fiscal year, ITS Infrastructure & Operations reduced costs significantly and improved performance by migrating hundreds of ITS databases to new hardware in the ITS Manning data center.






In early 2018, ITS finished the year-long project to switch to NetApp All Flash FAS (A700) solid state drives and turn off the IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC) system. Solid state drives are memory chips on a circuit board. Because there are no mechanical parts — no moving parts at all, they can be written to very quickly and they take less power and are lighter and smaller than hard disk drives. The move was part of ITS’ normal infrastructure lifecycling process for aging hardware.

The direct users of this system are groups within ITS, such as ConnectCarolina. The database platforms that use the new system include PeopleSoft, Sakai and the Kronos time-management system. The move to the superfast NetApp system benefits the entire campus.

The IBM storage virtual controller was failing. IBM said it would no longer support the equipment. The old system used considerable electricity to power, heat and cool. It also was big, taking up valuable space. In both ways, the old system was expensive, said Matthew Conley, ITS Manager of Storage, Server and Application Virtualization with Infrastructure & Operations.

NetApp solid state drives on display at ITS Manning

ITS researched potential replacement products, compared prices and vendors, ran a pilot and conducted performance testing. The NetApp All Flash system offered all the things an IT organization looks for when making a purchase — it was smaller and more efficient. “It’s cheaper to run. It’s cheaper to buy. It takes up less space,” Conley said. In other words, the new system frees up resources and real estate.

In fact, NetApp takes up 1/20th of the space of the old system, or specifically, a half of a rack instead of 10 full racks in the data center. That space savings is about the size of a school bus.

The energy savings was a nice surprise — gravy, if you will. “We’re no longer spinning the meter,” Conley said.

The power consumption difference is projected to yield a savings of more than 228,000 kilowatt hours per year, representing a reduction in power consumption of more than 85 percent. Over three years, the kilowatt-hour savings is projected to be 684,311.

The performance improvements are substantial as well. The nightly warehouse jobs went from seven hours to five hours, providing room for future growth. Rachel Serrano of Enterprise Reporting and Departmental Systems within ITS Enterprise Applications reports that her jobs run five times faster now.

The migration itself was transparent to users. What was different was the speed. “One day, all of a sudden, their stuff was wicked fast,” Conley said.

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