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Cloud powered with HP Converged Infrastructure

Cloud powered with HP Converged Infrastructure

theCloud provides flexible, on-demand hosted services with HP Converged Infrastructure consisting of HP 3PAR Storage and compute technologies.  The following case study was prepared by HP in relation to theCloud platform deployments in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington.

Objective:
Provide a scalable, redundant storage and computing infrastructure to support a self-service environment where customers manage their own provisioning.

Approach:
Evaluate solutions from Dell, Cisco, and HP to determine the most scalable, flexible storage and compute technologies to support theCloud’s fast-growing business.

IT improvements:

  • Make changes on the fly without disrupting service
  • More than 2x raw storage capacity through thin provisioning and adaptive optimization
  • Maintain 100% uptime with HP 3PAR Mesh-Active technology
  • Provide increased redundancy with remote copy capability

Business benefits:

  • Provides just-in-time performance and scalability for a low capital cost
  • Enables competitive pricing to help support business growth
  • Ensures customer confidence by providing guaranteed resilience

Cloud control
The cloud seems to be where IT is headed. While many businesses are ready to relinquish control of their IT infrastructures to help reduce costs and refocus their employees on revenue-generating projects, many IT administrators are not so sure. What about security, redundancy, bandwidth, or network uptime?

Giving up control can be daunting. That’s why companies like theCloud deliver dedicated hardware environments with a self-service layer that gives control back to the customer. Founded in Hamilton New Zealand in 2010, theCloud provides its Zero Touch self-service environment for infrastructure as a service (IaaS), software as a service (SaaS), cloud storage, web hosting, and broadband services. It offers small and medium businesses everything from a single mailbox through to a complex setup of virtual and dedicated servers, desktops, and phone systems.

Zero Touch
theCloud initially built its Zero Touch self-service tools for customer management and billing, but that quickly flowed into the development of provisioning tools. The Zero Touch environment uses custom-built application programming interfaces (APIs) to talk to the various systems in theCloud’s infrastructure. Customers can sign up to deploy mailboxes through theCloud’s implementation of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, to back up company data, to provide broadband access, or to host a web site. Many of its IaaS customers maintain their current IT infrastructure but rely on theCloud to provide more elastic virtualization environments for ad hoc projects or implementations of new services where they want to avoid additional purchases. The company supports operating system environments that include multiple versions of Microsoft Windows Server, multiple Linux distributions, and Solaris.

As customers began to sign up for services, theCloud realized it needed a more robust storage infrastructure to support the workloads of its growing business The company had already deployed HP Converged Infrastructure technologies to support its computing environment. It considered storage solutions from Dell and Cisco, but ultimately it decided to work with HP on its storage environment as well. . “We needed an environment that would scale, that was robust enough to take on hundreds of customers without falling apart, and that would maintain a level of performance across the board,” explains Bruce Trevarthen, CEO of theCloud. “We worked closely with the HP team here in New Zealand to determine what that would look like.”

Two environments, one cloud
theCloud ultimately decided to deploy two HP 3PAR F400 Storage systems, one at each of its data centers in Hamilton and Auckland (and a third on the way for Wellington). Each 3PAR F4000 has two storage nodes, with capacity for two more additional nodes as demand increases. “We chose HP 3PAR for the storage level because with the central servers in a cloud environment, we needed the scalability, resilience, and performance the 3PAR provides,” says Trevarthen.

The computing environments at theCloud are all virtualized using VMware vSphere. At its Auckland data center, it deployed HP BladeSystem c7000 chassis populated with HP ProLiant server blades. The chassis, servers, and HP 3PAR storage are interconnected by HP Virtual Connect FlexFabric 10Gb/24-port Modules. At its Hamilton data center, the company deployed HP ProLiant servers connected to the HP 3PAR directly through the Fibre channel. It backs data up to disk using Veeam, and then to tape using HP LTO-5 Ultrium Robotic Tape Libraries.

“We’re in an industry where nothing stands still and what’s suitable today might not be suitable for tomorrow,” says Trevarthen “With the 3PAR, we can modify everything—RAID levels, location of data, disk types—on the fly and in a non-destructive manner while it’s still running”

 

Maximum flexibility to meet customer demand
The primary reason theCloud chose the HP 3PAR F400 was that it wanted the ability to change its storage environment to meet customer demand without disrupting service. “We’re in an industry where nothing stands still and what’s suitable today might not be suitable for tomorrow,” says Trevarthen. “With the 3PAR F400, we can modify everything—RAID levels, location of data, disk types—on the fly and in a non-destructive manner while it’s still running.”

theCloud also uses the HP 3PAR Adaptive Optimization software for autonomic storage tiering, to help increase the cost-effectiveness of its solutions. Currently the company uses a combination of nearline and Fibre Channel disks, but it can easily implement solid-state drives (SSD) for customers who require a higher level of IOPS. “With Adaptive Optimization, we can provide more cost-effective tiers of storage based on what the customer requires,” explains Trevarthen. “For customers who don’t need high-performance storage, we can allocate 80 or 90 percent of the provisioning to nearline.”

With the HP Virtual Connect FlexFabric modules, theCloud is also not constricted by physical cables or physical ports in terms of bandwidth. “The capability for us to carve up our available bandwidth using the Virtual Connect FlexFabric based on our customers’ specific requirements gives us a lot of flexibility,” says Trevarthen. “The combination of the HP 3PAR and the Virtual Connect FlexFabric offers us an extremely fluid environment that enables us to respond immediately to any change in customer demand.”

Resilient solutions help increase customer confidence
Many customers rely on theCloud to provide a cost-effective disaster recovery solution. In a nation that has lately been rocked by earthquakes, ensuring resilience and redundancy is critical to keep businesses up and running. theCloud provides disaster recovery solutions at every level of the technology stack. At the HP 3PAR storage level, it uses HP 3PAR Remote Copy software for remote replication between its Auckland and Hamilton data centers, which means it can ensure faster recovery in case of an outage. “We have even had discussions with customers who have an HP 3PAR storage system on site, about the possibility of connecting their 3PAR system to ours and using Remote Copy to provide them with a cost-effective disaster recovery solution,” explains Trevarthen.

In terms of maintenance, theCloud can maintain 100 percent uptime. The HP 3PAR F400 Storage System features a high-speed, full mesh, passive system backplane architecture that joins the two controller nodes to form a cache-coherent Mesh-Active cluster, which enables a highly available, high performance storage system. theCloud can perform proactive maintenance on one controller at a time and ensure consistent network uptime. “We can’t have our storage environment go down at all. The mesh configuration of the controllers and the uptime and performance that provides is very important to us,” says Trevarthen.

He continues, “We have a customer who outsourced to our environment because they had trouble keeping their environment online. Since moving to our service, they’ve had 100 percent uptime, and that is definitely partly due to our HP 3PAR implementation and our HP environment overall.”

More than 2x raw storage capacity
theCloud uses thin provisioning in its VMware environment, in addition to using HP 3PAR Thin Provisioning and HP 3PAR Thin Reclamation software to help recover storage space and optimize performance. “The ability of the HP 3PAR to recognize anti-blocks and turn them into available capacity through thin provisioning and reclamation is unique, and it further adds to the thin provisioning we get out of VMware, says Trevarthen. “We get more than double the amount of storage capacity, so we can take on new customers without having to increase the amount of storage we need to handle the growth.”

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