Stemming the Flood

California water agency improves transparency with virtual storage system.
March 2010 E-newsletter

Virtual Storage

Ditch the Tape

FAST Rollout

VMware vSphere

Conquering Storage Woes

With a growing number of government agencies and constituents demanding access to its maps and images, the Mojave Water Agency relies on virtual storage systems from Hewlett-Packard to manage this workload in a cost-effective way.

The agency uses two HP LeftHand storage area network devices -- one in its main data center in Apple Valley, Calif., and another in its backup facility -- to provide public access to a wealth of hydrological data that has grown from 2 to 16 terabytes in the past four years.

Information Systems Manager Jesse Shelby says the agency couldn't manage all of its data and meet its transparency goals without its HP LeftHand SANs. "We're talking about providing access to data that allows our staff, our partners and our constituents to develop solutions to the water crisis in California," Shelby says. "How do we manage our water resources if we can't effectively manage, encapsulate and deliver information out to the decision makers?"

Mojave Water Agency Information Systems Manager Jesse Shelby and Network Administrator Dave Ogborn

Photo Credit: Brian Davis

Government organizations like the Mojave Water Agency are under increasing pressure to make their data publicly available. This is especially true for agencies involved in natural resources management, emergency response and homeland security, says Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer at FedSources. "There is such a demand to share information not only among the handful of state agencies that deal with the federal government, but with regional governments and different constituent groups," he says. "It makes good sense to put [the data] on the network and make it publicly accessible."

Bjorklund says that the push for transparency often prompts agencies to upgrade their storage systems. "Agencies are in an economic bind, and they start thinking about how to do this economically through storage consolidation and virtualization," he adds.

Data Deluge

For the Mojave Water Agency, the need to collect and share data comes at a time when California is facing a persistent drought and tight budgets. The organization manages water resources within a 4,900-square-mile region in San Bernardino County.

No. 1: Rank of virtualization as a Top 10 technology priority for state CIOs

No. 7: Rank of transparency as a Top 10 management priority for state CIOs

Source: NASCIO

Before deploying its HP LeftHand SANs, the Mojave Water Agency used removable hard drives to store its data, but that process quickly became unmanageable. "We had hundreds and hundreds of gigabytes of data that were relevant to geographic information systems that we had been collecting and storing on media that wasn't physically connected to our network," Shelby says. "We had removable hard drives that had the information stored on it that we weren't able to run on the network because it created too much of a bottleneck.''

Having upgraded its SANs three times in the past four years, the Mojave Water Agency has spent around $500,000 on its virtual storage solution. Shelby has seen a significant return on this investment.  "I can't imagine how we could have [managed our data] in any other way without adding more staff and more physical servers," he notes.

About 250,000 people use the Mojave Water Agency's data, including employees of federal, state and local government agencies, universities, independent water companies and real estate firms.

"We're developing a huge project called R3 for Regional Recharge and Recovery Project that will be a vast, super-well field that is going to bring water into the region and is going to recharge our aquifer," Shelby says. "To deliver this kind of project, the data has got to be accurate and it's got to be available. If you're not either one of those, then your project is sunk."

Network Administrator Dave Ogborn says the HP LeftHand SANs have been easy to administer, with key features such as the ability to boot a server from the SAN. This ease of use is important given that the agency has a two-person shop.

"There's been little or no downtime," Ogborn says. "It just runs smoothly, it's easy to manage, and it's easy to add storage to it as we've grown."

Expediting Emergency Response

The City of Eden Prairie, Minn., is another that has reaped the benefits of virtualized storage. Thanks in part to its NetApp FAS 2050 storage system (with a FAS 2020 as backup), Eden Prairie has found easy to upgrade its police and fire dispatch solutions.

"We're very happy with implementing our new police and fire systems," says Lisa Wu, Eden Prairie's IT manager and CIO. "We had to create testing and training servers, and we were able to do that within a few hours because of our virtualized environment. Otherwise, it may have taken a week or a few weeks."

Eden Prairie has 18 VMware servers and five virtualized workstations in addition to the NetApp gear, for a total investment of around $150,000.

The city stores 20 terabytes of data on its NetApp systems, which are mirrored for enhanced reliability. Before deploying the gear, the city used direct-attached storage for its servers.

"If we simply lose a server, our virtualized storage and server environment allows us to recover that server to either our primary or backup data center within 45 minutes," says Ryan Browning, network systems analyst. "Before, rebuilding a server would have taken anywhere from four to 10 hours."

Feb 05 2010