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Virtualization Help County Cuts Costs, Boost Storage Performance

Local governments are suffering. As real-estate values drop, so do their revenues. But unlike the federal government, cities and counties can't just print more money. Instead, they have to do more with less, and for their IT departments, that means a move to virtualization not only can help, it can be a critical budgetary lifeline.

Clackamas County in Oregon is in the same boat as other counties, large and small, rich and poor. This area of breathtaking scenery east and south of Portland has a growing IT need and a shrinking budget. In addition, it needs to serve its population without interruption and, if it can, improve the reliability and security of its operations.

"We're facing the same challenges many people are," says Chris Fricke, a senior IT administrator for the county. "The primary challenge was how to manage our upper-level storage with declining budget."

Of course, there's more to keeping up with data growth than just boosting capacity by buying more hard drives. "We had to do it seamlessly so it wouldn't impact our users -- so they wouldn't even know it's happening," he says. When he studied his storage needs, Fricke says he realized he could improve operations and also cut costs if he managed his storage usage properly. "Upwards of 90 percent or our data is untouched after 120 days. We started looking at deduplication and decided if we were going to chase capacity we'd do it in a more efficient manner."

Because of budget constraints, Fricke couldn't just go out and buy a bunch of new servers or hard drives. Instead, he had to find a way to manage the servers and the iSCSI storage in a way that made sense and added flexibility. "We primarily use Windows file servers. As soon as your filer gets too old to be considered production, you're looking at change that requires downtime. We were facing that on some of our Windows file servers when we couldn't grow them without downtime," he says. "That changes when your move to virtualization because you can move from filer to filer with the F5 Acopia."

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