SAN deployment at Roke Manor Research improves storage management, increases security and reduces overall IT costs

Owned by Siemens and based in Romsey, Hampshire, Roke Manor Research is an innovative solutions provider and contract R&D specialist. It pioneers developments in electronic sensors, networks, and communications technology, providing products and services to Siemens businesses, Government departments and commercial customers. The company employs 478 people. Its turnover for the financial year ending 30 September 2007 was £42.55 million.

The challenge

As a recognised centre of excellence for research and development Roke manages around 350 projects every year, each with its own diverse set of IT requirements, which can change during the project.

“We are often working in the dark,” explains Tony Barrett, network consultant, Roke. “Storage requirements in particular are extremely difficult to predict at the start of a project, making allocating space difficult.”

The centre has seen a significant year-on-year growth in storage demands, and predicts this will increase by 60 - 70% in 2008/2009. Roke has also recently been advised by parent company Siemens that all data must now be kept indefinitely. In order to meet these demands the IT team began researching the feasibility of a Storage Area Network (SAN).

“Like lots of others we were stuck with a legacy storage infrastructure that didn’t have the scalability the organisation needed,” explains Barrett.

Roke began by looking at an upgrade of its existing direct-attached storage (DAS) solution (from Dell) but soon realised that it would need to look at a SAN-based solution to manage the ever-increasing levels of data efficiently, reduce energy costs, create a more ecological footprint and provide a flexible infrastructure to respond to the organisation’s needs.

The Roke team carried out an intensive one-year evaluation process that included looking at offerings from Dell/EMC, Sun Storagetek, Hitachi Data Systems and Compellent.

The solution

Having worked with ICT integrator Fordway on a variety of projects since 2004, the Roke IT team decided to enlist the company’s expertise in helping to choose and integrate the most appropriate SAN solution.

“Roke needed a solution that would help them minimise administration and management-related costs,” explains Richard Blanford, managing director, Fordway. “Where Compellent differs from other vendor offerings in the market is that it eliminates the complexity and associated risks of the traditional hardware and third-party software mix. Compellent’s Storage Centre Software Suite already has the core functionality in place: be it data replication, thin provisioning or data instant replay.”
Blanford continues: “By choosing the ‘all-in-one’ Compellent solution Roke also avoids the cost and time implications of implementing any future changes, and as the organisation grows it can add a second SAN simply by buying the license to enable replication.”

Compellent’s ability to bespoke-build the system, ensuring exactly the right specifications to meet Roke’s requirements, also played an important part in the decision-making process.

“It gave us additional confidence that it was exactly the right solution for us and our needs,” confirms Barrett.

The results

Taking into consideration time saved from administration related to server management, energy savings from reducing the number of servers in use, the improvements in up-time and network speed, and the physical space made available at the site, Roke predicts IT-related cost savings in the region of £40,000 over the next three years.

“We will now be able to reduce the number of Windows servers we operate by half, from 50 to 25,” comments Barrett. “The end result will be a greener IT operation and a significant reduction in energy costs - at a time when these are seeing unprecedented increases in the UK.”

Users at Roke have also already provided positive feedback, reporting quicker access to project-critical data.

In addition to the cost benefits Roke found that the SAN enabled it to better manage the varying levels of access to information, which can often be highly sensitive or restricted depending on the type of project.

Next steps

In Barrett’s words, “The SAN has been a catalyst for change. We now have a variety of possible IT developments that we’re looking into, many of which we would not have considered – or realised were possible – before we had the SAN in place.”

Part of the team’s plans include a second Compellent SAN for disaster recovery purposes, the objective being to add additional layers of resilience to the IT infrastructure of the organisation.

Fordway Solutions Ltd is exhibiting at Storage Expo 2008 the UK's definitive event for data storage, information and content management. Now in its 8th year, the show features a comprehensive FREE education programme and over 100 exhibitors at the National Hall, Olympia, London from 15 - 16 October 2008.

Source: StoragePR