An Apple a Day: Virtualization Software from DataCore and Citrix Prove To Be the Right Strategy for Evans Fruit Company
DataCore Software, a leading provider of storage virtualization software, today announced that Evans Fruit Company has deployed DataCore Software for storage virtualization and Citrix XenServers for server virtualization. The combination of DataCore and Citrix delivers a highly-available virtual infrastructure that makes provisioning new servers and adding disk space easy and far less time consuming. “The virtual infrastructure that encompasses both server and storage virtualization has made my life easier for provisioning new servers and adding disk space,” comments Jeremy Hines, Manager of IS, Evans Fruit Company. “And it is the total virtualized environment, spanning Citrix Xen and SANmelody that makes this possible.”
Evans Fruit Company had two key business objectives: to overcome the time-consuming burden of updating drives with direct-attached storage and the labor-intensive burden of managing physical servers. These objectives would be resolved by virtualizing both storage and servers, enabling the IT department to be more efficient and productive.
A Virtualization Environment Based on DataCore and Citrix That Meets Business Objectives
Founded in 1949, Evans Fruit Company is the largest grower of Red Delicious apples in the state of Washington. The IT infrastructure relied upon to run this top fruit producer has recently gone through a huge upgrade, whereby DataCore partner Moose Logic has deployed two DataCore SANmelody, software-based, SANs that provide storage virtualization to Evans, while Citrix XenServers have virtualized the company’s servers. Prior to bringing in DataCore, Evans was reliant on direct-attached storage. Whereas they had some replication set up, it was all based on individual, point solutions for specific servers – Exchange, Payroll, etc
“We pulled all of our data from direct-attached storage over to the DataCore virtualized SAN and changed all of the servers to virtual servers running on Xen,” states Hines. “Now the Citrix XenServers point to the DataCore virtualized storage for both their operating system and all the necessary data storage. This DataCore-Citrix combination works really well.”
The DataCore SAN was implemented prior to virtualizing servers; however, both storage and server virtualization happened in the same month, as a “Step 1” and “Step 2” process. Now running on the highly-available virtual infrastructure are Microsoft Exchange and Windows Share (for Microsoft, Excel, etc.), as well as Payroll, which is a legacy, DOS-application that uses a Btrieve, flat file database.
Three Xen virtual hosts, meaning three physical servers, run all of the virtual machines. Two DataCore SANs running on SUN x4250s are physically separated, albeit in the same building, connected to each other via Ethernet. According to the IT staff, SANmelody makes it much easier to add storage to a machine, which is done by carving a new LUN (logical unit number) and then attaching it to the machine. Doing so immediately provides administrators with what amounts to a new hard drive, the size of which is easily increased. Notes Hines, “You carve out a new LUN, copy the data, and then drop the old LUN. It is pretty straightforward. We really like that in terms of ease-of-use.”
A virtualized, shared storage infrastructure made enormous sense to Hines and his team. Moreover, Hines stresses that thin-provisioning is a feature that enables Evans Fruit Company to forego buying large quantities of disk space up front, only to leave most of it empty.
The efficiency of virtual storage extends to the servers, which are much easier to manage in a virtualized environment. “Replacing a server on physical hardware can be quite the trick,” remarks Hines. “With virtualized servers, I can easily decide that I want to modify the servers or do upgrades. This can be done by live-migrating some servers from an existing node, powering down and old node, plugging in a new node, and transferring the master operations role to the new node. I can then bring the servers up on the new node, and finish replacing the whole cluster that way. This way, I have suddenly upgraded processor and possibly RAM, without having to do anything to make the servers work again.”
As far as the overall implementation itself, Hines lauds DataCore partner Moose Logic. “The virtualization implementation went as smoothly, as quickly and as easily as it did because Moose Logic is as good as they are at what they do,” he notes. “As far as the set-up and the planning of the deployment, they really know their stuff. I just can’t say enough good things about Moose Logic – I am definitely a fan.”
A Key Differentiator: DataCore Redundancy – High Availability Made Easy
Hines emphasizes that DataCore gives him peace of mind due to the synchronous mirroring capabilities – whereby redundancy is assured via two nodes in the same (or stretched, metro-clustered) location. Synchronous mirroring enables Evans Fruit Company to run DataCore storage virtualization software on two separate hosts. He notes that many entry-level SANs that possess two controllers actually have the controllers built into the same box. Two machines in the same casing do not offer the benefits of two separate hosts that can be stretched across a campus or metro region. He is equally impressed that, with DataCore, he can use industry-standard hard drives instead of using proprietary gear that plugs into a vendor’s hardware SAN.
“One of the great things about DataCore is that it is easy to have two copies of SANmelody running on different nodes so that our data is redundant,” notes Hines. “If we lose one node, we are OK. For our XenServers, we have a pool of XenServer hosts – so that any machine can be booted off of any host because they are all linked back to both nodes.”
Beyond this, Hines is equally pleased that DataCore also offers remote (asynchronous) replication, whereby a copy of the SAN can be supported at a very remote, offsite location. He stated that many of the entry-level SANs that Evans Fruit Company considered do not support asynchronous replication. “Having the ability to do asynchronous replication is a big deal for us – and something we will certainly embrace in the future,” comments Hines.
Software-based Storage Virtualization Wins the Day
DataCore’s storage virtualization approach is software-based, an approach shared by Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware vSphere and Citrix XenServer towards server virtualization—a key differentiator that appealed to Evans Fruit Company.
“The fact that DataCore offers a software solution was highly appealing to us,” concludes Hines. “Obviously you need good server hardware to run it on, for the sake of reliability. DataCore’s software runs on Windows 2008 x64. It has all the features that a higher-end SAN would have, but is available for a smaller implementation.”
About Evans Fruit Company
Evans Fruit Company is fully committed and specialized in providing our partners and customers with consistent ongoing supplies of fresh, crunchy, flavorful apples at service levels that others can not or will not attempt to compete with.
About DataCore Software
DataCore Software develops the storage virtualization software needed to get the highest availability, fastest performance and maximum utilization from storage resources in physical and virtual IT environments. It provides the critical 3rd dimension on which the success of server and desktop virtualization projects hinge, regardless of the models and brands of storage devices used.