CIO

Open source Xen a 1-Stop for transport IT company

Bundled storage and data management tools a real winner

Sydney-based transport industry data interchange and portal provider 1-Stop Connections has migrated most of its core infrastructure to virtual servers and iSCSI SANs to reduce its infrastructure requirements and management complexity.

1-Stop was founded to provide synergies in data interchange between customs, freight, shipping and rail providers and has grown to provide an electronic data interchange community portal for freight forwarding and logistics companies.

By using 1-Stop those companies don’t have to implement the same IT solutions for the same tasks.

IT manager James Skurray said the company now processes about 500,000 messages per day between the different parts of the transport industry.

Skurray came on board at 1-Stop about five years ago as a consultant and stayed as an IT manager when services were in-sourced.

1-Stop had a mixture of Sun, Windows and Linux platforms on Sparc and x86 architectures and also employed a range of products for storage management and data replication.

The long-term plan is to move away from Solaris on Sparc to Red Hat Linux on Intel for cost and support reasons.

Having fewer systems to manage means less complexity for the IT staff and virtualisation was also high on the agenda for power and infrastructure reduction.

Skurray is a self-confessed “best technology with a spin on open source” person and, without any existing investment in other hypervisor technology, was keen to give Xen a go.

“We installed Xen to host few non-critical systems and now we have been running almost everything on Xen for more than a year,” he said.

“I’m happy with Xen which is very stable and includes a lot of management tools. By using virtualisation, everything is simplified because the systems do not need to know as much about the storage layer - it’s very transparent.”

1-Stop has just completed a deployment of Citrix’s free XenServer product with high-availability which allowed the Web server environment to be migrated to Xen easily, according to Skurray.

The result of the virtualisation project is a reduction in server count from around 20 to 15 while the data management requirements have been increasing. And now scaling infrastructure can be done as required.

“With Sparc, scaling on demand means another $100,000, but now it’s just adding blades at $15,000,” he said.

1-Stop uses Dell’s blade systems and EqualLogic SANs for storage and does not have any disks in its servers.

Skurray said the EqualLogic product is compelling because of the data management software already integrated into the device.

“And because it’s iSCSI my team does not need to manage a separate type of technology,” he said. “Everything is partitioned for performance reasons, but the storage switches are the same technology as the network switches.”

1-Stop still has a back-end Oracle-Sun system but that too will be considered for migration to Oracle on Linux.

Dell’s global director of enterprise storage and networking, Praveen Asthana, said iSCSI has matured a lot in recent years and now competes well with Fibre Channel on price and functionality.