ILCU Turns to Typetec for Datacore’s SanSymphony – V Solution



Established in 1960, the Irish League of Credit Unions represents 484 financial institutions across Ireland, with combined assets of €13.6 Billion, and membership of over 3 Million. These credit unions are instilled with a strong people-based ethos with representation from the local community; people in similar occupations; or societies who save together and lend to each other at a fair and reasonable rate of interest. The Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) was set up as an umbrella organisation to represent and provide joint services to the affiliated credit unions across Ireland. Acting as a single consolidated body on a national level, the ILCU represents and provides expansive services. This includes, legal counsel, HR advice, joint advertising, ICT and professional services. The ILCU itself has nearly 100 employees and volunteers to help sustain the service.
Malcolm Moir is the Infrastructure Services Manager at the ILCU, who, from his Dublin office, is responsible for movement-wide shared communication networks & IT infrastructure.

“Our very ethos is about providing equitable, reliable, shared & stable assets to our user base.  We knew that there had to be a better way to service them with a highly available environment that also offered Disaster Recovery to boot.”


Achieving a custom-made virtual environment for both servers and storage:

Faced with ageing physical hardware which was becoming increasingly complicated and challenging to manage, ILCU decided it was an ideal opportunity to take a fresh look at the entire environment through server and storage virtualisation. So as to reap the benefits of consolidation, decreased overheads and greater availability of critical business applications. They turned to architecture advisor and Irish DataCore Gold partner, Typetec, who recommended and implemented VMware® vSphere for server virtualisation. As with all server virtualisation projects, Typetec’s aims were two fold, to optimise the utilisation of common resources (CPUs and disks) and to readily redeploy these resources (servers and storage) when and where they are needed by ILCU. Typetec also explained that VMware® vSphere requires additional assistance to enable advanced functions such as workload migration, load balancing, fail-over and disaster recovery, and is completely dependent on highly available (HA) shared storage platform. They went on to introduce the concept of a storage hypervisor to ILCU – a portable, centrally-managed software package from DataCore that extends provisioning, replication and performance and acceleration services.


To prove the concept of what could be achieved moving away from traditional Direct Attached Storage on a Storage Area Network (SAN), Typetec took the unusual step of creating ILCU’s entire infrastructure within their own internal test and development lab. A pair of DataCore SANsymphony-V nodes were tested in a dual mirrored configuration, running on standard x86 Intel hardware. ILCU were invited for an interactive hands-on briefing session which soon had them interacting with the intuitive interface of SANsymphony-V to achieve automatic failover of both path and data through the DataCore Storage Hypervisor.


Having proved the concept, all parties appreciated that the DataCore Storage Hypervisor was an essential element of their proposed Virtual Infrastructure deployment. VMware virtualized the servers and DataCore virtualized the storage. Malcolm conducted his own validating customer research into some of the 8000 DataCore global customers and global reference sites before placing the order for both VMware server and DataCore storage virtualisation with Typetec.


Installation Commences:

With the help of Typetec, server installation commenced, first consolidating the workload of ILCU’s 20 physical servers into 2 HP ProLiant servers which run as Virtual Machine hosts for VMware.   Two further HP ProLiant servers act as the host for the DataCore SANsymphony-V nodes acting in a synchronous mirrored pair to alleviate the fear of a single point of failure. Closing this single potential failure scenario in the Disaster Recovery process for the ILCU was a significant step in achieving a heightened sense of full security. Malcolm elaborates:


“Previously, conversations with our business colleagues would centre on how Disaster Recovery should work. With the new DataCore SANsymphony-V environment, those service level conversations shifted into providing advice on how individual business continuity background processes could be optimised for each department. That’s significant when you consider that assured Business Continuity has been achieved at 60% of the cost of alternative storage environments”.


But it is not just Disaster Recovery and high availability that has achieved a tick box at ILCU.  Because of the way DataCore’s SANsymphony-V SAN-wide caching engine works, there is an active decrease in IO bottlenecks associated with server virtualisation that significantly overcomes performance issues for critical shared applications for employees.


Malcolm continues;  “Armed with the knowledge that we could accelerate applications such as Microsoft Exchange and SQL, we were able to reduce the hardware requirements while still providing the same performance to our user base. We are delighted that the move from physical to virtual infrastructure went entirely unnoticed!”.


Back in the Dublin server room, further benefits have emerged.  When it comes to ILCU requiring additional disk, no longer does Malcolm have to speculate up front how much disk may be required.  DataCore SANsymphony-V constantly monitors the size of the available disk pool and with 25% left to go, sends alerts to the team. Indeed, adding new VM’s and maintaining the virtual estate, is no longer a complex provisioning exercise that involves downtime. Instead it’s a point-and-click exercise where storage is allocated to each VM through DataCore’s SANsymphony-V.


Service Level Agreements (SLAs) have also dramatically improved with Malcolm confident and comfortable that further reductions can still be achieved by simply adding a third DataCore SANsymphony–V node in an asynchronous mode to the offsite Disaster Recovery site a few miles away. The foundations have been set and with further optimisation assured.


“We started this project with the main aim of decreasing costs, modernising our environment and achieving reliable Disaster Recovery. Undoubtedly, DataCore’s SANsymphony-V is the cornerstone to this achievement. We are proud of the service we can now offer the business.”


And for DataCore’s only gold partner in the Republic of Ireland, Typetec, Malcolm retains the highest praise. “I cannot praise the services of Typetec highly enough. Once again, they demonstrated that they were willing to go above and beyond to deliver us the optimal solution. Not many partners would build an entire replica of our environment just to provide re-assurance.”


As DataCore’s SANsymphony-V solution has been running for 12 months, we will leave the final comments on reliability to Malcolm.

“The stability of the storage hypervisor has impressed me. It’s simply an install and forget product that we rarely need to change. And at ILCU, it’s proven. We did have a failover, but it was totally oblivious to the business, with no interruption of services and a simple notification by email, storage is failed over automatically. That’s massively reassuring.”