ISP boosts storage with NetApp buy

Perth ISP Westnet turned to NetApp to help it cope with growth.

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Perth-based ISP Westnet has augmented its existing storage infrastructure in order to cope with recent surges of growth.

The ISP has nine data centres across Australia, servicing 200,000 customers, 100,000 of which are in Western Australia.

Over the last three years, Westnet has grown 80%, becoming the second largest ISP in Western Australia. It has since been acquired by iiNet.

Prior to that transaction, the company’s existing storage infrastructure was unable to cope with the rapid amount of growth the company was experiencing.

Operating an entry-level fibre channel SAN with five trays of fibre-attached disks meant that Westnet’s storage had limited scalability, limited features, no capacity for redundancy, complex administration and inefficient data partitioning.

The company therefore wished to upgrade its system, in such a way that wouldn’t compromise customer service or performance <0x2014> two key principles on which the business was formed.

But if the company did not upgrade its infrastructure, customers would begin to experience a lack of availability when accessing billing information and face problems accessing the authentication server when trying to connect to the internet.

Westnet was also concerned about the lack of physical redundancy, a critical element of corporate governance. With little space to back up critical customer data, the company was not prepared for a disaster situation.

To deal with this problem, Westnet purchased two FAS6030s from NetApp to complement their existing infrastructure. The company was already hosting its customer email data on two FAS3020s.

The company’s first step was to migrate its email database to one of the new devices, freeing the existing storage devices to host the billing database and web hosting service. The second new device was used to create a redundant filer employing SnapMirror technology. This allowed the ISP to address its customer service and compliance concerns in one fell swoop.

“The process took six to eight weeks to complete and involved moving multiple terabytes of internal and customer data while maintaining minimal downtime. There were no surprises throughout the project, with everything performing as expected,” says Jonathon Lanzon, systems supervisor at Westnet.

The ISP benefits from the new system solution in several areas: utilisation, performance, customer satisfaction and future growth.

By deploying the extra infrastructure, Westnet was able to make the most of its existing systems, using them for centralised storage and virtualisation. This allowed the ISP to increase utilisation of server resources, reduce management and administrative activities, and increase reliability and redundancy options.

“One of the biggest benefits to Westnet is the simple efficiency in storage provisioning,” Lanzon says. “It allows Westnet to reduce the time required to bringing new services to market.

“Typically, it would take four weeks to bring a product to market, whereas with the help of VMWare we can introduce a new product in less than an hour.”

In addition, the centralisation of storage makes better use of application clustering, which reduces server footprint and reduces cooling and power costs.

Westnet’s chief technology officer, Alan Ariti, explains the benefits to performance: “Westnet’s systems are more reliable and perform faster than before. There is minimal downtime and effort involved in storage administration, which allows the system to operate at maximum efficiency most of the time.”

The system has also meant fewer scheduled outages for customers.

“The benefit of being a reliable ISP with strong infrastructure and systems is that we can confidently position ourselves as market leaders in ISP service and reliability. This benefit is passed on to our customers in the premium internet experience we provide,” Lanzon says.

This customer satisfaction is reflected in the 2007 Australian Broadband Survey conducted by Whirlpool.net.au, which assessed attitudes of 17,881 broadband users. When asked about service reliability, 72.7% of Westnet customers surveyed were very happy with their service, with Westnet ranking second in reliability out of Australian ISPs.

The system also focuses on optimising performance, enabling future growth. The ISP is supplied with frequent performance analyses, helping identify potential areas of improvement. This means the company is better able to cope with future demands by continually manipulating the storage infrastructure.

“Westnet’s systems are more reliable and perform faster than before. Minimal downtime and effort involved in storage administration mean that our systems operate at maximum efficiency,” Ariti says.

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