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California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Deploys SolidFire Storage to Blast Barriers to Full Virtualization
Posted: Wed Sep 02, 2015 02:40:43 PM


Utilities agency practices what it preaches with efficiencies of scale-out, all-flash storage

BOULDER, Colo. and SAN FRANCISCO, September 02, 2015 VMworld 2015 Booth #929 — SolidFire, the #1 Solid-State Array, today announced that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has achieved near 100 percent virtualization by leveraging the scale-out architecture of all-flash storage from SolidFire.

The CPUC models innovation by constantly driving for operational efficiencies that save energy, cut costs and enable better customer service. Under new leadership and a mandate to modernize, CPUC over five years virtualized approximately 80 percent of its IT environment on the VMware platform. But then the agency ran into a roadblock: the performance limitations and upward-spiraling cost of legacy storage solutions, which historically required scale-up model upgrades that consume not only budget dollars but also the IT staff’s time to migrate data.

Turning to all-flash storage from SolidFire, CPUC virtualized that difficult last 20 percent of workloads — those with the highest Input/Output operations Per Second (IOPS) — by winning the long-elusive trifecta of fast, reliable and affordable storage.

"We're a regulatory agency for energy, so we need to set an example," said Albert Fuller, Infrastructure Manager for CPUC. "We reduced our physical footprint significantly through virtualization, but that remaining 20 percent was our pain point. Scale-up storage solutions didn't let us close that gap. SolidFire’s scale-out storage is something new that enables us to do what we could not before — approach 100 percent virtualization, with guaranteed IOPS and the ability to scale out. If you're the utility provider for California, you have to practice what you preach: reduce your data center footprint and conserve energy. In storage, there’s fast, cheap and reliable — and before SolidFire you could have only two of those at a time. SolidFire is one of those upstart companies that makes a real difference because of the way the solution is architected."

Within a SolidFire storage array, performance and capacity are presented as independent unified pools separate from one another. Each storage volume can be allocated an exact amount of capacity and performance, both of which can be changed on-the-fly without migrating data or impacting performance.

After successful proof-of-concept testing, CPUC implemented SolidFire for its most demanding workloads: Microsoft SQL and the agency’s VMware Horizon virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

Running SQL servers on legacy storage created significant latency, and did not provide the speed and performance CPUC requires. SolidFire solved the latency problem and helped reduce licensing costs. Retiring a half rack from its legacy storage solution, CPUC reduced its footprint from 21U to 4U.

SolidFire also enabled VDI to become a reality at CPUC. The agency runs offices in San Francisco and Sacramento that employ remote workers and consultants. A pre-SolidFire attempt at implementing VDI did not deliver the required performance, rending its virtual desktop environment unusable. Now CPUC has virtualized 60 desktops in San Francisco and plans to scale to 150 desktops there, as well as expand to a second site in Sacramento. CPUC is seeing performance improvements of 25 to 30 percent. Even with 150 desktops, CPUC will not be exhausting the capacity of its San Francisco cluster. While for licensing reasons the SolidFire clusters supporting SQL remain dedicated, other clusters support mixed workloads and thereby increase utilization.

CPUC has placed its SolarWinds monitoring software on SolidFire. The previous SAS disk storage solution required weekly reboots. SolidFire so far has gone more than four weeks without a reboot. Additional workloads going on SolidFire include a new in-house application for content management — something the previous SAS solution could not handle.

SolidFire also delivered a surprise advantage, CPUC said: an intuitive interface that provides true ease of use. With SolidFire, CPUC gained a fast, reliable and cost-effective storage solution that eliminates latency, performance degradation and the need for resource-intensive scale-ups. Having overcome barriers to full virtualization, the agency runs its existing applications more efficiently — with better access and visibility — and deploys new ones that improve service to both internal and external customers.

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