Case study Energy

Software defined, flash accelerated affordable storage turbo charges business

OGN takes highly virtualised data centre into the next gear, combining block level flash with the power of auto-tiering and a virtualised metro-cluster

Offshore Group Newcastle Limited’s (OGN) Tyneside facility near Newcastle provides engineering, procurement and construction services to the offshore oil and gas and renewable energy industries, giving customers access to the best UK offshore construction facilities available.


Working at the forefront of innovation and engineering excellence, the company datacentres are equally well equipped, future-proofed and consolidated within the landmark 32 hectare headquarters in Wallsend. Fully virtualised and filled with VMware virtual hosts sharing fibre channel storage, the IT Department deliver and support multiple intensive applications, from offshore planning to business critical services such as SQL and ERP.

As the business has blossomed with prestigious contract wins and a switch to 24 hour operations, so has the pressure upon IT. Expansion of the companies’ SAP Enterprise Resource Planning platform alongside Microsoft Exchange, SQL databases and file servers was squeezing the storage infrastructure to such an extent that bottlenecks were becoming more commonplace. Some users were beginning to experience intermittent performance at essential demand times throughout the day and night.

The problem we saw at OGN manifested entirely from ongoing successful business growth. The modern, highly virtualised VMware ESX environment that had been executed meticulously a few years back had almost trebled in size, and storage could no longer cope with the demands the business placed on burgeoning critical applications – Simon Birbeck, Executive Technology Consultant at Waterstons


OGN already had metro-cluster synchronously mirrored storage, the stretch cluster running over a pair of DataCore SANsymphony-V nodes on Dell T620 commodity servers and MD1220 SAS-attached storage, with a fully redundant 8Gbps Brocade fibre channel fabric across the iconic site. This provided the business with continuous availability even during periods of datacentre maintenance, with a no single point of failure design.

We recommended a straightforward turbo charge of the Head Office virtual estate with the simple and relatively low cost introduction of a new storage tier. This involved a non-disruptive working business day upgrade of both DataCore storage server nodes with a Micron P420m PCI-e flash card. This would provide a further 1400GB of very low latency storage, using Auto Tiering to automatically maintain the production working data set across all key virtual machines on flash, and adapt continuously to changes – making sure the right data is held in the right place at the right time.


After install, all eyes turned to see how the extra flash IOPs (Input/Output Operations per Second – the measurement of storage performance) would perform in handling line of business applications in the turbo charged environment. Approaching a million IOPs, the Team realised they had executed one of the fastest infrastructure performance improvement projects with little outlay and infrastructure overhead.

Jonathan Taylor, OGN’s Corporate Head of IT observes “by utilising ‘off-the-shelf’ components in a creative solution, Waterstons were able to dramatically increase performance of our systems across the board. Crucially, the performance uplift was sufficient to enable us to defer adoption of costly ‘in memory’ ERP appliances, at least until that technology becomes suitably mature.”

The IOP count showed even greater performance improvements than we had initially envisaged. And these weren’t just benchmark figures. Six months down the line, OGN continues to enjoy lightning fast storage response for their line of business applications which helps to give them a competitive edge.
Simon Birbeck Executive Technology Consultant