NetApp Customer Case Study: Diversus Group Uses NetApp Unified Storage for Fast Access to Simulated Customer Environments

Sydney, AUSTRALIA - November 18, 2009

Key Highlights

Industry
Technology

Challenge
To provide a storage system to support high levels of data transfer from remote users, whose job it is to accurately simulate customer storage environments in real time, without losing information or slowing data transfer.

Solution
Unified storage solution based on NetApp® FAS2000 series scalable architecture, several NetApp SnapManager® applications, NetApp FlexClone®, NetApp Simulate ONTAP™ and NetApp Operations Manager.

Benefits

  • 80% bandwidth saving
  • Minimal maintenance/management required
  • Consistently above 65% storage utilisation
  • Consistently positive remote user experience

Customer Profile
Diversus Group is a fast-growing, Australian professional and advisory services consultancy that aims to provide customers with the benefits of reduced cost, complexity and risk when it comes to data storage and management.

With offices in Canberra, Sydney, and Melbourne, the company's focus areas are:

  • Consolidation and storage of business data
  • Data protection
  • System and solution operations and management
  • Timely access to data to provide a solid customer experience

Diversus Group is a NetApp Platinum Certified Delivery Partner.

Diversus Group's consultants work with customers to help them enable and implement change in their IT environments.

In practical terms, the company's consultants are engaged with NetApp customers to provide an independent, third-party perspective on storage. This can include simulating the proposed storage environment and creating a testbed so the customer can understand more clearly how the final implementation will work and benefit the business.

The Challenge
Diversus Group is a small business with 80% of its staff being remote users. Headquarters and IT infrastructure are based in Canberra, and consultants work in Sydney and Melbourne.

Being able to run a testbed with storage simulation requires high levels of data transfer, as well as the need for immediate access to information. Diversus Group's challenge was to be able to offer customers reliable, accurate simulations of their proposed storage environments in real time, without the risk of losing information or slowing data transfer.

Aaron Pickering, chief technologist for Diversus Group, says, "From the outset, we intended to grow our business quickly, so we knew the storage infrastructure we chose had to be robust enough to meet the challenge.

"In the small business environment, especially a consultancy, cash is king, and information is critical. So if you're at the office dealing with IT issues rather than in front of customers, you're losing money. If your data storage system fails and you lose information, it can be a fatal blow to the business.

"We wanted a back-end system that didn't require a full-time IT staff member and would give us the flexibility to run our business remotely. We needed an efficient, consistent, streamlined storage environment that we could use to not only simulate customer situations in real time, in an affordable package; but also house all of our critical business data."

The Solution
Being a NetApp Platinum Certified Delivery Partner, Diversus Group chose to partner with NetApp for its storage requirements.

Diversus Group implemented a storage system based on the NetApp FAS2000 unified storage architecture. The FAS2000 is a scalable system designed for companies that have complex, growing data environments in dispersed or remote locations.

Pickering says, "Our consultants are talking to customers every day about the benefits and breakthroughs NetApp storage systems can bring to their businesses. So it's critical that our own NetApp system is robust, reliable and fast. If it weren't, we couldn't speak to customers with true passion about the products.

"Scalability is very important, considering the rate at which our business has grown and the speed at which system use is increasing. The NetApp architecture we've implemented is highly scalable and allows us to do more with less."

The solution also included several NetApp SnapManager applications to automate backup processes for key applications, including:

  • SnapManager for Microsoft® Exchange
  • SnapManager for SharePoint®
  • SnapManager for SQL Server®
  • SnapManager for Virtual Infrastructure

"In the three years since we began, we've only had to recover data twice. Both times, we've gained full data recovery within minutes using the NetApp SnapManager software," says Pickering.

"A key element of our value-add as a consultancy is that we can provide information fast, so spending long periods recovering data is not an option. SnapManager gives us the confidence that we will be able to recover our data, no matter what."

Diversus Group uses NetApp Simulate ONTAP so consultants can create a testbed for customers to mimic their live storage environments without risk.

The company also implemented NetApp Operations Manager, a comprehensive dashboard to simplify storage monitoring and management and provide an accurate picture of storage resources. Consultants use NetApp Operations Manager to show customers, within simulations, how they can alter storage configurations, offering the customer a clearer understanding of the proposed storage solution.

Diversus Group uses NetApp FlexClone to instantly replicate data sets and data volumes as virtual copies, without requiring additional storage space.

"Our ability to replicate customer environments is key to our business," says Pickering. "An Active Directory environment including applications such as Microsoft SharePoint and Exchange usually equals around a quarter of a terabyte of disk space for the test data and virtual machines. Using our test and simulation environment in conjunction with NetApp FlexClone, we are lucky to take up 20GB."

Diversus Group uses four VMware® ESX servers, which all run on NetApp NFS data stores. Two servers are used in the production environment and two for the test and simulation environments.

"This gives us the virtualization 'double play.' When you virtualize both servers and storage, you are able to provide much more with less, while remaining flexible to the changing requirements of a fast-paced industry," says Pickering.

Consultants access data remotely from around the country to set up full test environments on laptops in as little as an hour. Diversus Group deployed Riverbed® Steelhead® WAN optimisation tools at the Canberra head office to complement the investment in NetApp storage technology. The benefits of WAN optimisation are pushed out to the laptops using the Riverbed Steelhead Mobile Controller.

"No matter what you tell customers, the power is in what you show them. Fast turnaround time is essential when we're sitting in a customer's office simulating that customer's storage environment," Pickering says. "It makes sure we are able to show customers the challenges and implications of certain decisions."

Business Benefits
"With the technology we've implemented in our business, we now have a very low-administration, low-overhead, reliable, scalable, high-performance system that requires no more than an hour of interaction each week," Pickering says. "For example, adding Riverbed applications to the NetApp implementation has allowed us to save about 80% of bandwidth.

"It means as a small business, we don't need to have a dedicated IT resource. The system provides us with e-mail alerts if there's an issue, so we don't have to pay someone to sit in the office and maintain it."

Diversus Group had specific targets it wanted to achieve prior to implementing the NetApp storage infrastructure, which were all exceeded. These included:

  • Deduplication of production virtual machines
    • Target: Above 30%
    • Achieved: Consistently above 65%
    • Benefit: Less disk required, less space consumed, and less cooling/power consumed
  • Ability to create multiple copies of data set to run validation testing or simulation
    • Target: Within 30 minutes, using minimal space
    • Achieved: Less than 10 minutes, using less than 10GB
    • Benefit: Fast access to information to show benefits to clients on the spot
  • Decrease environmental impact
    • Target: Consolidate entire IT infrastructure to less than 42 rack units
    • Achieved: Full networking, production, and development environments consolidated on 22 rack units
    • Benefit: Less space required, less heating, cooling and power consumption

Pickering says, "The results we've achieved allow us to take our business further, all while minimising our impact on the environment through a smaller equipment footprint and a strong focus on our virtualization strategy. We also have a drive toward a paperless office environment, because we believe that even smaller companies like ours can take big steps in the right direction of being 'green.'

"We've made a significant investment in these technologies, because they are not just what we use to run the back end of our business, they are the tools we use to sell and deliver our service. It's one thing to put together an efficient, streamlined back-end environment, but if it's not consistent in performance, our users will become frustrated. This means they will be unlikely to upload critical design and other business data to SharePoint and will not use the test/simulation environment, regardless of how good the tools are.

"If the experience for the remote user is not adequate and consistent, then we are failing as a business. Our strong ability to give our customers a good experience is founded in the fact that our whole team has a positive experience with the system. It's what helps to give them passion and belief in the solutions they're offering customers, and it's this added value that gives us our repeat business.

"In a business like ours, success can depend upon how quickly you can recover from error. We can sleep easy, knowing that in the unlikely event something fails, our corporate data will be protected and is recoverable immediately, and our profitability as a business won't be affected."

The Future
Next steps for Diversus Group include expansion domestically and overseas.

Pickering says, "We've had demand from customers in Queensland, and we are working with customers in New Zealand.

"Because we're so mobile and have a high remote user base, we're a very dynamic business and can set up a local operation quickly and easily."

From a storage perspective, next steps for Diversus Group include investing in a second NetApp FAS2000 storage platform and SATA drives to conserve more power.

"We will be driven by the user experience, and we will grow our infrastructure as required, which won't be difficult with NetApp technology driving the back end," concludes Pickering.

Media Contact
Rachel York
Max Australia
+61 2 9954 3492
Rachel.York@maxaustralia.com.au