NRL seeks increased IOPS with hybrid storage

Deploys flash-enabled storage to boost application performance

NRL IT infrastructure engineer, James Carpenter

NRL IT infrastructure engineer, James Carpenter

The need to boost storage capacity as well as deliver better application performance after virtual servers grew from four to 65 in the space of three years led the NRL's IT team to deploy a hybrid storage platform with a combination of spinning disk and flash cache.

The increased pressure on the organisation's storage is in part a product of an IT in-sourcing program the NRL has carried out over the last three and a half years or so.

That process came about after the NRL moved into a new office space along with NSW Rugby League and Country Rugby League, said the NRL's IT infrastructure engineer, James Carpenter.

The three businesses had run separate networks looked after by different third party support providers and there were no full-time IT staff.

"Moving into the one building, it was sort of a good opportunity to get a proper, proactive IT infrastructure up rather than a sort of 'patch and fix' mentality," Carpenter said.

"So essentially since then we've just been inboarding everything from email to Citrix remote access; all the common services that a business of that size would need."

"We've had a huge amount of storage growth," Carpenter said.

"When we initially set up the new network three-and-a-half years ago we had a NetApp storage array with about 11 terabytes of storage.

"Very quickly in the course of about two-and-a-half years we'd pretty much filled that. With email being hosted internally, with file and print being merged into the one system and just general data growth we'd started running out of space."

With the organisation hosting more services on its network, performance began to falter.

"We'd started running out of IO performance, because we were hosting more applications internally," Carpenter said.

Carpenter said the IT team didn't decide specifically to look for flash-enabled storage from the outset, but the NRL ended up swapping in a Nimble Storage CS 200 Series Array, managed by Nimble's InfoSight platform.

"We had three main criteria really," Carpenter said.

"One was it had to come in at roughly 20TB of usable space because that's what we needed to have enough room for growth.

"Two was that it needed to perform a little bit better than the current storage because we were starting to come up against performance problems there. And the third was it had to be very low cost, because we don't have an awful lot of budget to spare."

A big factor in the eventual decision was ease of administration, Carpenter said.

The NRL has five permanent IT staff -- along with Carpenter there's an IT manager, two IT support staff and a SharePoint admin -- supporting in the region of 600-700 users.

Setting the new storage array up only took an hour and a half, Carpenter said.

"You plug the thing in, give it an IP then point your vCenter at it. And for software upgrades, you click the download button then click the install button and that's it," Carpenter said.

"It's much, much simpler."

The new array was swapped in November. In addition to hosting data on the NRL's own network, the organisation is using Amazon's public cloud for storing media assets, Carpenter said.

"Because we have an enormous volume of data to go into that [media asset management system] we need the elasticity of a cloud provider."

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