NZTE revamps storage, looks to Saas and iSCSI

Storage re-architecture project open to new technologies

New technologies will feature in a revamp of storage systems at export agency New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.

NZTE has gone to market for a storage area network, with a tender closing this Friday, and the trade agency has identified storage as a service and iSCSI as two technologies that will be key to the overhaul.

The tender documents note: “NZTE recognises that ‘storage as a service’ may be a more cost-effective approach for certain data, such as old documents or email archives. It is therefore desirable that the products proposed [by RFP respondents] are capable of utilising such services as an integrated part of the offering”.

NZTE’s chief technology officer, Richard Ashworth, says the organisation recognises storage as a service is maturing and that there are existing and pending services available.

“We’re about to make an investment in ‘in-house’ storage, so in the interests of maximising the value we obtain from taxpayer spend, we want to make sure that we can leverage storage as a service options as and when they are viable for us.”

As long as security and other aspects are addressed, having data hosted away from NZTE isn’t a concern, Ashworth says.

“Having data stored offsite within New Zealand is not an issue in itself. We do, however, need to take care that security, privacy and other legal concerns are covered adequately by a solution,” he says.

Likewise, iSCSI, which is becoming a widely-used storage networking technology and a recognised alternative to the more established but more expensive Fibre Channel set-up, is also on the agenda for NZTE’s SAN project.

Tender documents note: “iSCSI is the chosen direction of NZTE, and should be given preference in any proposed solution submitted as part of this RFP”.

“The specification of iSCSI is mostly about overall value for money,” Ashworth says. “For the workloads and data sets that NZTE has, iSCSI will deliver the performance characteristics that we need at a better price point than Fibre Channel solutions. It also eliminates the need to maintain a separate fibre infrastructure within the datacentre, reducing cost and complexity.”

Several other government agencies, including the Civil Aviation Authority and Tertiary Education Commission, have installed iSCSI SANs in recent years. Yet, Ashworth says it was NZTE’s own requirements, rather than successful implementations at other agencies, that drove the decision to back iSCSI.

“The fact that other government organisations have implemented iSCSI is not a key driver for NZTE, rather we have concentrated on our needs as an organisation.

“We are very confident in iSCSI as a proven technology and it is recommended by both Gartner and Info-Tech Research for purposes such as ours.”

The project involved a complete re-engineering of NZTE’s storage systems.

The tender documents note: “The current environment supports a heterogeneous mix of all major types of storage systems, including NAS, SAN and direct-attached storage” and that this is to be replaced by a single, logical SAN.

The RFP notes: “NZTE is open to a complete redesign, rationalisation, redeployment or replacement to achieve its requirements.”

The current, one-tier storage model is to be replaced by a three-tier one. Significant data growth at NZTE’s Wellington and Auckland sites – spurred by another project involving replication for disaster recovery purposes between offshore NZTE sites and New Zealand ones – will need to be accommodated by the new system.

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