The solution

In discussing the situation with SMCM, Data Networks recognized two key concerns, according to Joseph Green, the Data Networks Solution Architect for SMCM. “The EqualLogic SAN arrays had reached end-of-life – Dell was no longer marketing them and would soon no longer support them,” explained Green. “In addition, the Cisco Catalyst switch connecting the VM infrastructure with the core network was a single point-of-failure. We needed to swap out the storage group with something sufficiently powerful yet budget-friendly and give SMCM some redundancy in their switching.”

Data Networks proposed and SMCM agreed upon a virtual infrastructure improvement project, and they formed a joint team to plan and complete the project.

Specific project objectives included:

  • Replace the EqualLogic PS4000/PS6100 combination with four Dell EMC VxRail all-Flash appliances (taking advantage of the completion of the Dell-EMC merger).
  • Augment the single Cisco Catalyst switch with additional Juniper 10Gbps uplink modules.
  • Leverage as much of SMCM’s existing technology investments as possible, especially its committed VMware licensing and core Juniper switching.

VxRail is SMCM’s initial adoption of hyper-converged infrastructure. This benefits the college in several ways: using just a single console for data center control and VM administration (with fewer new administration tools to learn), linear scalability of virtualization as growth dictates, and greater consolidation ratios so that SMCM’s VMware licensing investment is maximized.

Moreover, adding the uplink modules to existing networking in support of VxRail not only provides redundancy for the Cisco switch, but also is a much more cost-effective solution than upgrading or purchasing one or more Cisco switches due to Juniper’s virtual chassis capability.

Data Networks engineers proceeded to install the required 10Gb modules between the Cisco Catalyst and core Juniper switches at the project’s outset. From there, Data Networks began to execute the SAN array conversion using a prepared checklist designed by their engineers specifically for VxRail deployments. This effort included physical installation of the VxRail appliances, configuration of all communication ports and networking protocols in consultation with Dell EMC Support resources, and transfer of all application and workflow software licenses from the EqualLogic devices. The project took only one week to complete and Data Networks engineers moved the new VxRail appliances into production and shut down the EqualLogic storage group over a weekend without incident.

Mission accomplished

Since going live with VxRail hyper-converged virtual architecture, virtual machine (VM) usage and administration performance has been excellent.

According to Chris Burch, SMCM’s Assistant Vice President of Information Technology, “Because of our partnership with Data Networks, we’re benefiting from a significant increase in VM administration throughput, as measured in workloads. Our new VxRail’s all-Flash configuration is expected to deliver peak virtualization and data storage for us over a solid lifespan of more than five years. At any time, we can easily expand our VM usage and data capacity to suit our teaching and administrative support needs.”

Click here to view the PDF version of the Delivering Hyperconverged Infrastructure at St. Mary’s College of Maryland case study.