Flood prone council's IT team bouyed by infrastructure overhaul
- 03 May, 2017 16:42
For Fraser Coast Regional Council, the threat of the D in DR is very real. Located in the Wide Bay–Burnett region of Queensland the council governs an area at significant risk of flooding.
“Certainly there's a real possibility that one of our data centres could go down,” explains the council’s executive manager information services Wade Rogers.
When the rains come – and they often do – many of the region’s 100,000 citizens go online to access flood maps and evacuation guides. The council’s online services are especially important during times of emergency, but were at risk of being inaccessible, such as in 2012 when floods took a data centre in Maryborough offline for a number of days.
Until recently the council’s back-up datacentre was not equipped to quickly take on workloads, heightening the risk of outages. This month Rogers’ 17-strong team shared details of its solution – the deployment of a Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Platform to replace an outdated three-tier storage area network (SAN) and blade server infrastructure.
“This [solution] gave us the opportunity to go back to two data centres and put effectively the same infrastructure in both, and enough infrastructure in both that we could run all server and storage workloads from a single environment if we had to,” Rogers says.
The move has not only shored up the council’s disaster defences, but also given the team the opportunity to better serve its citizens.
Cloud on the horizon
The opportunity to make the change came about around a year ago when the infrastructures asset replacement programme aligned with available budget.
“It was all pretty new, the hyper-converged space. Initially there were questions like 'where does the data sit?’ When you've got dedicated SANs the guys can identify down to the physical drive where data sits but it's all a bit – I won't say black magic – but it's very conceptual,” Rogers says.
“The more we kind of looked at it the more comfortable the team got with it. We spoke to the vendors and got more of an idea around how it actually works and what sort of redundancy you get with that sort of a model. And certainly the reduction in the physical footprint of what we needed in our server rooms just sounded better.”
With the NBN not having yet reached the area, going all-in with cloud wasn’t an option. The implementation has secured operations for the next five years or more.
“In five years we anticipate we'll have much more robust network links in the region whether through NBN or otherwise,” Rogers says. “By that time we'll have more confidence and be better placed to make a decision: do we replace it all, keep what we've got and do the same thing again or potentially just put it all out in the cloud.”
And when it pours, the team can rest assured their systems are safe.
“Being able to move workloads quickly in the event of a disaster is a huge relief, and we’ve saved a ton of storage space with deduplication and compression, which has taken the pressure out of our datacentres. The redundancy is also key for us being in a flood prone area, or an area that is known to flood.”
Since the deployment, the Council has recorded 45 per cent savings in storage capacity through deduplication and compression in its primary datacentre, and 26 per cent savings in storage capacity in its secondary datacentre. Cloning of virtual machine guests has gone from five minutes down to less than one, and the physical space used in both datacentres has decreased by 60 per cent.
Serving the community
The Council has upwards of 600 users across its network who rely on its applications – including Microsoft SQL, ERP, finance systems, asset management and HR apps – along with many web services like recruitment, event booking and online mapping used by the public. The majority are now running on the Nutanix platform.
Without their time being consumed by infrastructure demands, the team is now focused on adding value to the organisation and the area.
“There's a bit of that shift in mentality in the team, that they're not hardware guys anymore. We're really in a service delivery area within the organisation,” Rogers says.
A recent project has seen the team work alongside Queensland Police in deploying CCTV cameras to monitor troubled areas reported by citizens. When hotspots have been identified, officers can connect directly into the council’s network to access CCTV coverage which has grown from around 30 cameras a few years ago to more than 300 today.
A number of other projects are also afoot.
“The real benefits though, are in the infrastructure management time it’s created, enabling us to roll out projects that we expected wouldn’t have even started yet. We can also be of greater service to the community. Simply put, we have more resources and can respond better to the community’s needs,” Rogers says.