Phoenix Helps Derbyshire Council to Create a More Sustainable and Scalable Storage Infrastructure

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Phoenix provides the solution to tackle exponential growth in data and provide resilience in Derbyshire County Council's disaster recovery plans.


Working with Phoenix enabled us to reduce the storage we had to provision and pay for.


Derbyshire County Council works in partnership with nine district and borough councils. It has in excess of 30,000 staff, serving a population of 750,000; predicted to increase by 8% over the next 10 years.


“Achieve more for less.” Tackle exponential growth in data storage generated by 8,000 network and ICT users, and a roll out of an Electronic Document and Records Management System, (EDRM) converting legacy based data to electronic records. Reduce backup overheads, improve time to failover to disaster recovery site – all in an environment where costs must be controlled, existing SAN investments utilised and IT services improved.


Innovation in technology: an on-premise NetApp optimised storage solution: data tiering consolidated file data onto two NetApp clusters across two sites using virtual technology; data protection and DR failover through regular snapshots and thin replication; greatly reduced storage usage through Thin Provision, de-duplication and compression. Phoenix successfully designed, supplied and deployed the solution.


Optimised tiering of data storage, significantly reduced backup windows, enhanced DR Service levels, reduced and/or delayed IT expenditure via right tiering of file storage on NetApp using advanced storage efficiencies techniques which has placed greater control on existing and future data growth.

Derbyshire County Council delivers a huge range of services covering children and adults, social care, highways, libraries and culture and waste disposal. It has to provide these in the face of ever-tighter budgets and increased scrutiny, with technology playing a key role in enabling efficiency gains and improving operational effectiveness. Given the complexity of its business, the Council generates enormous volumes of data, which led to problems. “We’ve seen massive growth,” says Rob Skermer, Data Centre Manager. “We first implemented our storage area network (SAN) in 2003 and it was scaled for 2 terabytes. Today, for each environment, we’re looking at 250TB, so growth is more than a hundredfold. Keeping pace is difficult.”

By 2012, Derbyshire’s existing storage solution was running out of capacity. It didn’t provide File Services directly and required many Windows Servers to be connected to deliver the bandwidth and performance to serve 8,000 users. Data replication and file server failover was complex and often found to be unreliable. When backing up the file servers an entire weekend was required due to the many millions of files, many never being touched or changed. So whilst the platform met the needs of server virtualisation and business applications, it failed to meet file serving requirements and service levels associated with ensuring data is always available and easily recoverable. With the majority of restores file-based, staff spent several hours locating the right file, so the demands on staff were significant.

A new strategy was required that enabled the Council to retain existing SAN investments whilst deploying an enhanced approach to file services that met user demands, improved service levels and provided a sustainable and scalable platform going forward.

Why Phoenix?

Phoenix is a trusted partner, providing invaluable consulting assistance,” Skermer says. “We wanted a cost-effective, sustainable approach for the next 3-5 years, with minimum capital overheads.” Phoenix approaches all such engagements in a consultative fashion. In the case of Derbyshire, the Council had a perfectly good Storage Array that excelled in some functions and failed in others. The Phoenix approach was to right-size the solution and implement functional storage tiering – moving a large quantity of low IO file storage to a more optimised NetApp unified storage platform, optimised for file services with industry-leading storage efficiencies and data protection capabilities: a better fit for its tier 2 storage. Skermer says, “We have a good relationship with Phoenix and confidence in its people, consulting and technical services. We also had a tight time frame, which was built into the contract.” The Council was about to exceed capacity and wanted to avoid penalties within its existing contract, plus having to spend capital on an interim solution. “We had to implement fast, over four weeks. We also wanted to free up storage, in terms of unstructured data – and thanks to Phoenix we ultimately freed up 20TB of tier 1 storage.”

The Phoenix solution

Using skills and disciplines including IT Business Requirements Assessment, Storage and Microsoft Consultancy, and Data Migration, plus successful project management to complete on time and to budget, Phoenix implemented a dual-site NetApp storage platform. This consolidated multiple file servers onto a single unified platform, using high capacity SATA (Serial ATA) drives and with storage efficiency features including thin provision, data de-duplication and compression. This enabled the Council to “right tier” its storage. “Working with Phoenix enabled us to reduce the storage we had to provision and pay for,” Skermer says. NetApp Snapshot technology meant millions of tiny files could be backed up in seconds and retained for four weeks, with tape used for long-term retention to meet governance requirements. “We have multiple restore points, so have improved performance in recovering files. Before, it could take two days. Today, it takes seconds. We may have three or four requests each day, so that overhead in person-hours reduced significantly.” NetApp is also used to replicate data off-site to a secondary site. “We’ve enhanced failover, improving our resilience and recoverability options: using NetApp we have failover in 10-15 minutes from one site to another and it’s invisible to users,” Skermer says.

Return on investment

“Our solution’s modular so we can scale in terms of future capacity,” Skermer adds. “With the NetApp controllers, we can swap-out without any service interruption, attaching more storage. So it’s sustainable: one of our original requirements.” Derbyshire could leverage existing investments, delaying the cost of replacing its legacy platform whilst providing a solution far better suited to 8,000 users. New storage efficiencies reduced storage outlay by up to 50%, while the backup window shrank from 48 hours to seconds, with reduced tape handling improving service levels and reducing the cost of IT operations. Greater efficiency of IP LAN and WAN bandwidth has also been achieved by using the Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP). “Our relationship with Phoenix has always been productive, no matter what project we’ve engaged on, in terms of meeting our objectives and achieving the outcomes we wanted. It’s a 100% record – including the hardware Managed Services we also currently receive. In this case, Phoenix again demonstrated a real commitment to developing a solution that’s highly beneficial to us. Phoenix people understand where we’re coming from and Phoenix is very flexible. In terms of technology, I think we’re now at the forefront in this area.”

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Hannah Kirk
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