Clark County, Nev.

Las Vegas government consolidates 200 servers onto NAS to ease data center strain

May 26, 2006

4 Min Read
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IT staff for the government of Clark County, Nevada, which contains the city of Las Vegas, have embarked on a major server consolidation project in an attempt to tackle data center space constraints and deal with the burgeoning storage needs of one of America's fastest-growing cities.

Rich Taylor, the County's senior systems programmer, told Byte and Switch that the county faces a unique data challenge. "Conservatively, the population is growing by 4,000 to 5,000 people a month," he says. There are now around two million people living in the local area, up from less than half a million in 1980.

Last year, the U.S. Census Bureau identified North Las Vegas as the third fastest-growing city in the nation, with a population boom of almost 10 percent between 2003 and 2004.

Understandably, this population influx has had a significant impact on the county's storage requirements. "We have a difficult time keeping up with the growth," explains Taylor. "Five years ago we bought an [IBM] Shark with 1.3 Tbytes and we thought that would last us." Now, however, the organization's storage needs are "sneaking up" to the 100-Tbyte mark.

The county's storage is provided by an array of devices, including the IBM Shark as well as a DMX-3, two EMC Clariions, and a Centera device, all from EMC. Last year, the county also added an EMC Celerra 704G NAS device in an attempt to control its server footprint.Clark County is now migrating 200 servers onto the NAS. Initially, the bulk of these servers were Compaq boxes, although most have been replaced with Dell machines, which are in turn being migrated over to the Celerra. This, according to Taylor, will be used for file services across the county's 30 departments -- and will make his life much easier: "It's that many less servers to administer, and that many less servers to patch."

But the biggest benefit for Taylor is the data center space savings. Previously, the Compaq servers took up dozens of racks, but the NAS is contained within a single rack. "The NAS takes up one-fortieth of the space that the servers would have taken up," explains the exec.

This, in turn, will help slash the county's power and air conditioning costs. Keeping IT kit cool in the searing desert heat is no small undertaking. Las Vegas experienced temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 100 days last year, according to Taylor. "We're trying to cut down on the big old hunks of iron that take power, because it costs too much," he says. "We haven't crunched the numbers yet, but the savings are going to be substantial."

Taylor also expects significant performance improvements thanks to the NAS. The county has replaced "six- and seven-year-old" SCSI technology on the Compaq servers with faster Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA) drives. "The Compaq servers were limited to two- and four-gig SCSI-attached drives, whereas the Celerra NAS has up to 500-gig ATA drives."

Two years after starting the project, Clark County has migrated around 150 servers onto the NAS and expects to complete the scheme at the end of this year. The old Compaq servers, apparently, are finding new homes throughout the local area. "We have an agreement with the state [and] we offer the servers to schools or state organizations," Taylor explains.Initially, the organization looked at migrating its servers onto the IBM Shark system, but eventually opted for the Celerra. "EMC came in with some very competitive pricing," says Taylor, though he would not reveal how much the county paid for the Celerra, which is connected to a Clariion box.

As for the future, data replication is on the cards. "We want to look into any software, any hardware, anything that will help us save time and make use of the limited resources that we have," he explains. The exec would not reveal which vendors are in the frame, though he confirmed that it will be a very select list. "What we cannot do, because we're a small local government, is try everything, because we have not got the money."

To make things even more complicated, support is an issue in the Las Vegas area. Although both IBM and EMC have offices in the vicinity, many smaller vendors do not, which limits Taylor's options: "If you don't have an office in town, I don't want to look to you."

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp.0

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