Manufacturers Must Think Virtually to Ensure Data is Protected

Aug. 11, 2010
Virtualization vanquishes data loss fears

Data is what all manufacturers rely upon, and with the ever-increasing influx of it, companies need to ensure that it is protected in the event of a natural disaster, human error or other problems. With this heavy reliance on data to maintain day-to-day operations, manufacturers cannot afford to overlook data protection as it is the key in maintaining production, optimizing productivity and guaranteeing profit.

With manufacturing facilities in Ohio, Arkansas, Texas and Mexico, Austin Powder is one of the oldest manufacturing companies. Our company provides a full line of industrial explosives, accessories and blasting services to customers in mining, construction, and seismic exploration throughout North America and around the world. We decided to use storage virtualization to increase efficiency and decrease costs, improve our data backup and disaster recovery (DR) processes, while also laying the foundation for a remote DR site in the near future.

Similar to other manufacturers, we sought to protect our data while minimizing operational expenses. Specifically, our IT department was charged with protecting business-critical applications, including the Sybase and Microsoft SQL Server databases and e-mail. In looking for the right solution, we wanted a package that would be manageable by our small IT staff of 10 people, but one that could support our growing user base of 1,000 employees. Also, we wanted to avoid vendor lock-in, purchasing the best storage arrays available at the lowest cost.

Moving Over to Storage Virtualization

When examining data protection solutions, we determined that storage virtualization would not only complement the recent Microsoft Hyper-V server virtualization project we had completed, but it would also address our goals of reducing costs, increasing efficiency and creating a scalable solution. The proliferation of data had resulted in separate islands of storage in data centers, each requiring independent management and protection policies, complicating storage administration. This complexity results in resources that are either under- or over-utilized, which are both a waste of our time and money. Storage virtualization allows us to consolidate storage resources into one virtual pool for simple and centralized management with flexibility, reducing primary storage capacity requirements and cutting storage capital investment. Additionally, we benefited from the ability to leverage low-cost hardware while migrating data between tiers, thus minimizing cost. Storage virtualization increases day-to-day operational efficiency and reduces overhead costs, allowing for quick recovery.

With storage virtualization, we were able to quickly and easily create a new disk resource to house virtual machine files, and disk resources are now easily re-allocated to different servers or shared among servers to facilitate virtual machine high-availability (HA) operations that require shared disk. We use storage virtualization for our primary storage area network where we store three terabytes of data from three remote data centers.

Virtualization Vanquishes Data Loss Fears

In deploying these solutions, the combined virtualization and storage area network (SAN) technologies reduced server deployment time from more than a week to less than one hour. We are able to deploy and clone production servers, create stable backups and recover virtual machines quickly. Additionally, our server performance has increased. We have improved our data backup process to recover from any fault, from a single lost file to the recovery of an entire machine with applications up and-running, often within just minutes of beginning the process.

Our new approach to data protection has enhanced IT operations for Austin Powder and dramatically improved and increased business operation efficiencies. Reducing downtime and providing constant access to business data and applications has a direct impact on the top line, as well as the bottom line of an organization.

Chris Benco is a network administrator for the Austin Powder Company. The backbone of Austin Powder's infrastructure is managed by FalconStor Software.

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