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Brookline Virtualizes Storage For Government Information

The challenges facing government IT professionals are, in many respects, the same challenges faced by all IT pros, with the additional stresses of citizens and various constituencies (not to mention open-access laws and regulations) thrown into the mix. When a community decides that it's time to upgrade its computing infrastructure, it can become a long-term project with many different goals and targets to be met along the way. That's the experience of the city of Brookline, Massachusetts, a community of about 60,000 just outside Boston that began a path toward virtual servers and storage about three years ago.

Kevin Stokes is CIO for the town and public schools of Brookline. He says that the process of looking at the overall architecture in the city's strategic planning led directly to consideration of server virtualization as part of the strategy for how the IT group would get there.

Stokes says that he didn't begin the process with an understanding of storage as a strategic piece of the infrastructure. "I'll admit that I started out thinking of storage as a commodity, and I didn't appreciate it as a strategic part of the vision. We found, through some unfortunate situations where we lost some key data, that not all storage is created equal," he says.

Brookline had been using EMC storage branded by Dell since 2002, but the IT group didn't see the products as a long-term direction for the city.  Ultimately, the Brookline IT folks decided to stay with EMC, but chose the Clariion CX4 family of mid-range storage products for their needs. Stokes says that the CX4 units they considered were actually on the small size for the anticipated storage needs of the city, but that the features and capabilities of the CX4 met the priorities of the new architecture.

After considering many different options and carefully designing a new architecture, the project could get underway. Stokes says, "We really started virtualization in January of 08. In the building blocks we had there were a lot of storage needs, and the virtualization made it obvious that we needed a robust and resilient storage solution. We've consolidated north of fifty servers down to thirteen blades and about fifty virtual servers. From where I sit storage sits at the center of virtualization." He says that he considers Brookline fortunate in that the city has the resources to act on the understanding of storage's importance to the newly-virtual environment -- it all came down to the budget.

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