Newcastle International Airport takes issues of reliability and up time very seriously. It has long ensured continued availability of critical business systems, imperative to the safety and well-being of the travelling public.
The Airport wanted to increase the number of systems protected with resilient measures, by replacing the disparate methods in place. This would improve continuity of service should a critical incident occur.
The Airport was also very keen to leverage investment which had been made in providing resilient high speed (Gigabit) network capabilities between their two on-site data centres (one kilometer apart).
To ensure all critical data remained available, in even the most severe event, strategic partner Waterstons proposed a solution based around VMware ESX virtualisation:
- The airport’s virtual machines were replicated across both data centers using a mirrored storage area network (SAN).
- Live virtual host servers were used in both data centers, each attached to a local SAN storage server. Synchronous mirroring between the SAN storage servers means that both are identical replicas of each other at all times, ensuring disaster recovery.
- A centralised disk to disk to tape backup solution (D2D2T) was incorporated to provide point in time data protection and rapid recovery should data loss occur.
Newcastle International can now take advantage of a variety of benefits the resilient solution has provided:
- Continuous availability of all IT systems is assured with a single, easily managed technology.
- Both on site data centres contain identical copies of all systems ensuring easy disaster recovery with minimal requirements of time and manual intervention.
- Easy, fast deployment of additional virtual servers and enhanced scalability for future growth.
- ‘At-a-glance’ monitoring of all key systems from a single console.
- Minimal downtime requirements for scheduled and re-active maintenance.
- Reduced overall running costs and energy usage compared to separate physical servers.
A range of Technologies
iSCSI (or Internet-SCSI) is a technology which takes the industry standard SCSI protocol and applies it to communication with storage devices over an IP based network.
In the past Fibre Channel (FC) was the storage protocol of choice for SAN solutions. However iSCSI is rapidly increasing in popularity owing to its good performance at a relatively inexpensive price.
iSCSI technology was key for Newcastle Airport as it would readily operate over the highly resilient Ethernet network which connected the two data-centres together.
iSCSI is used both for connecting the virtual servers to their storage, and for replication across sites between the storage servers.
Newcastle Airport evaluated several SAN technologies before deciding to choose DataCore SANmelody for this project. SANmelody offered an attractive mix of comprehensive feature set, strong track record and the capability to leverage relatively low cost storage hardware, comparing favourably to other SAN solutions.
Two storage servers were deployed, one in each IT facility. Inbuilt synchronous replication across gigabit networks ensures that both storage servers are identical ‘block level’ copies of each other.
In the event of a component failure affecting either storage server, the other server instantly takes over workload.
A migration of live IT systems to a VMware ESX virtual infrastructure was also key to the project. This allowed all servers to be re-housed on SAN storage and replicated across site.
This included a Windows Server 2008 AD migration, and upgrade to Exchange 2007.
The ESX environment provides a wealth of productivity enhancing features which have proven of benefit at Newcastle Airport. Perhaps most significant has been the fast and inexpensive way in which entirely new servers can be provisioned with only a few mouse clicks - which without further configuration are mirrored across site.