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Volkswagen Unit Centralizes, Virtualizes Its Storage

Despite a long series of ad campaigns in which it encouraged customers to "Think Small," Volkswagen in the U.K. was finding out that it needed to think big. The company's data storage requirements were growing exponentially. Email and database requirements were getting bigger all the time. Meanwhile, the company was moving to a blade server environment to keep its data center from being any bigger than it needed to be. The answer was to virtualize its storage.

"What we were looking for is a way to centralize our storage," says Mike Duxbury, senior service specialist for Volkswagen Financial Services for the U.K., in Milton Keynes, U.K. "Like many companies, we suffered from disparate disks on separate servers. So we centralized our storage. We also wanted to mirror the data."

While Volkswagen has corporate standards for applications and databases, such as requiring Oracle for all corporate databases, regional operations can choose their own infrastructure. "We are using SANmelody, which is a storage virtualization product from DataCore," Duxbury says. "We wanted to do mirroring in real time rather than asynchronously over a fiber network. We actually use the product with iSCSI." One of the main reasons for using iSCSI was the ease with which it would fit into his existing Ethernet switched network, he says.

The plan to use his existing network fits well with the rest of Duxbury's infrastructure plan. "The servers themselves are just bulk standard HP servers with a few terabytes of storage hanging off the back and presented to the network with the DataCore software," he explains. "Consolidating the storage centrally allows us to be more efficient in our usage. We can give it to the services that need it.

One of the nice features, Duxbury says, is the network managed volume: "If you decide to give a server two terabytes of storage, it won't actually use it until it needs it." And SANmelody is flexible enough that you can actually allocate more storage than is physically present in the SAN, he says. This allows volumes to change their sizes as the needs of the system change. "If you haven't got the physical storage to back it up, you need to keep an eye on it so you won't run out," he cautions. But NMV also provides some critical benefits. "There's none of this building of a physical server when you need something more."

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