Australian Bureau of Statistics counts on no storage team, HP, for census

Australia’s recent agricultural and population censuses will be stored on and tabulated using HP SANs, but a dedicated storage team won’t help the count.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) doesn’t have a dedicated storage team and doesn’t want one even though it has recently acquired two sets of HP storage area networks to store data collected in Australia’s 2011 census and agricultural census, the two largest data collection events the organisation conducts.

“Our business model with storage is very optimised,” says Brian Studman, the Bureau’s Director of Server Operating Systems and Storage. “We did not need a dedicated storage team [in the past] and wanted to preserve that [for the two censuses].”

One reason for that is the storage team operates using an internal cost recovery model inside the ABS. Lower costs are appreciated by internal clients.

Another is that the team just likes to be as efficient as possible.

The ABS has arranged a panel of storage suppliers as it is in the organisation’s nature to constantly acquire storage. “We have a constant release of data – two to four releases every day,” Studman says, adding that the Bureau is “highly virtualised” and uses thin provisioning to manage much of its storage.

Big jobs like the census, which come along only every five years, warrant dedicated hardware and a discrete tender. For the population census that process resulted in the acquisition of HP’s EVA 8400 Storage Solutions.

For the agricultural census, the Bureau wrote cheques for two HP 3PAR T800 Utility Storage Systems and a quartet of HP X9300 10GbE NAS Gateway devices.

Studman says the 3Par decision was made, in part, because “HP was aggressive with what they offered in terms of value for money.” He and his team were also impressed with the 3Par kit’s ability to improve system performance in the Bureau’s heavily virtualised environment.”

HP also “flew out the ‘A-team’ to do the installation,” a useful effort as the equipment was purchased in June and was required to quickly become operational to process data from the agricultural census conducted in the same month.

That late acquisition and implementation came about because the Bureau likes to “defer our capital expenditures until we need it,” Studman said. This means that while it will over-provision storage, it knows the likely capacity it will require for events like a census and gets all the primary storage configuration work done before number crunching starts in earnest.

Some of the decisions involved in acquisitions and configuration are made in consultation with teams that oversee applications.

“There is linkage between the apps guys and the infrastructure guys,” Studman says. “We have a great relationship with our internal statistical clients.”

That relationship is already paying off.

“We have moved some of the production SAS application environments to the 3Par equipment and seen significant performance improvements.”

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