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Case Study

New Data Centers Support Growth Potential

 

By increasing capacity and decreasing downtime, Hydromax USA builds a foundation for a strong future.


There’s Big Data, and then there’s really Big Data. It was the latter that prompted Hydromax USA to scrap its elderly, maxed-out data center and replace it with two data centers capable of handling the company’s aggressive growth.

Based in Chandler, Ind., Hydromax USA is a professional services firm that helps utility companies and contractors locate and assess the condition of underground water, sewer and natural gas infrastructure. For example, using satellite technologies originally developed to find water on other planets, Hydromax USA can scour thousands of square kilometers for leaks and then pinpoint the location of each within an area the size of a tennis court. The company also uses sonar and remote cameras to assess the condition of sewer systems. 

You don’t have to be in the utility business to appreciate that this level of scrutiny generates a lot of data. In fact, that’s the takeaway of this story: Companies in other verticals that store and analyze tens of terabytes of video, images and other media (whether X-rays or archived video conferences) can learn from the way Hydromax USA stocked its new data centers.

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The number of hours of unplanned downtime at Hydromax USA in 2016, compared to 70 hours (at $10,000 per hour) in 2014

Nick Schapker

It was all about the service: having somebody who can get on the phone and help me keep everything straight. The whole project, start to finish, CDW was invaluable.

Nick Schapker, System Administrator, Hydromax USA

Nick Schapker

Keep Pace with Growth

Between the time Hydromax USA was founded in 2003 and 2014, it relied on a single Dell server: initially, a PowerEdge 1900, later swapped for a 2950. When Nick Schapker was hired as system administrator in October 2014, the company had replaced the 2950 with an R510 and implemented a 25TB Dell PowerVault MD1000 storage array.

“Hydromax was very near 100 percent capacity,” Schapker says. “They were unable to pursue additional projects or customers due to lack of storage space.”

Hydromax USA bought some time with a few secondhand servers and storage devices purchased via eBay. 

“We attempted to build very cheap commodity storage using storage technology that was already phased out of use in most environments,” he says. “It became clear to ownership that the cost to get and maintain this older technology, with its modest performance gains, was just not sustainable.”

“In the history of Hydromax USA, very little had been spent on the core infrastructure. In 2015, we invested the most the company had ever spent on storage and compute resources, about $10,000, to prove to ownership that this was sorely needed.”

Yet even this expansion — from 25TB of capacity to 60TB — couldn’t match the need, says Schapker. “The capacity expansion gave the company a huge growth potential, which was utilized in the same year, resulting in the biggest year to date for the company.” 

During this period, the company’s IT burden wasn’t the only part of the business that was growing. Gross revenue doubled, illustrating the relationship between the company’s bottom line and its data center capabilities. It also highlights why Hydromax USA needed major upgrades ASAP.

Select the Right Solutions

Schapker joined Hydromax USA from a local computer consultancy, where he often worked with CDW. That positive experience put CDW on his short list when it came time to rip and replace Hydromax USA’s data center. 

“There, I was introduced to what CDW can do for its customers. Having the ability to get a representative on the phone and connect with other engineers or consultants was invaluable. Many times it made the difference for our customers. I brought that relationship with me to Hydromax USA. The relationship has really augmented the IT department in a very positive way.”

Dan Lah, CDW data center solution architect, visited Hydromax USA to understand its challenges, recommend options and work with Schapker to test potential gear. One of Lah’s suggestions, which Hydromax USA agreed with, was deploying the EMC Isilon for video storage.

“Isilon really is the market leader for scale-out network-attached storage repositories,” Lah says. “Scale-out NAS is a good fit for large amounts of video. It makes it easy to manage if it can be one pool. On their previous solution, they had to store video in a bunch of different logical buckets — run out of space, and throw it on another storage area network.”

A single logical pool of storage is also easier to maintain, Lah says. Unlike a traditional SAN, technicians don’t have to manage a redundant array of independent disks or logical unit numbers. And Isilon makes it easy to do a technology refresh.

“As you add nodes to the cluster, and some other nodes get three to five years old and ready to retire, you just push a button,” says Lah. “The data evacuates automatically from the old node, and you can just pull them out. So you can have a constant, rolling refresh cycle, so to speak, and avoid future data migrations.”

Hydromax USA also picked the EMC VNXe, an entry-level yet reliable SAN to support the virtual machine workload. 

Isilon NAS Storage

EMC Isilon's scale-out network-attached storage was a good fit for Hydromax USA's video data.

A Smooth Transition

CDW shipped all the EMC gear, along with APC racks and uninterruptible power supplies and Dell servers and switches, to Hydromax USA’s Louisville, Ky., data center. 

“It was like Christmas morning,” Schapker says. “You have these racks and boxes that you really want to get into and put to work.”

CDW assembled everything, seeded all the data, tested the equipment for about four months, then divided out one rack’s worth of data for shipment to the second new data center. The team spent a weekend breaking the clusters apart and moving them, another step where Schapker says CDW’s involvement was critical.

“CDW’s assistance with the project was invaluable. To do this without them would have been very tough.  Moving this rack of equipment to a new location involved setting up a completely new infrastructure in that office. This was completely new compute, storage, networking and Active Directory environments. Without CDW’s assistance we would not have been able to complete this migration in the time we had allotted.”

“Working with CDW made this whole migration project really smooth. There could have been unforeseen obstacles along the way, but with support for every step in the process — initial setup, testing, power down, physical relocation to another state, power on and reconfiguration — this project went off without any issues. It was smoother than bringing online a new mail server.”

CDW also helped Hydromax USA migrate about 82TB of data. “That was a painless process,” Schapker says. “They gave me the white-glove treatment.” 

The company now has the scalability necessary to maintain its aggressive growth.

“By adding these storage and compute resources we are able to support the growing needs of the company. It also allowed the company itself to pursue larger customers and contracts. It has allowed the company to really expand in our market space.”

Maximize Uptime and Redundancy

The new data centers also enable the company to make good on its reliability goals.

“In 2014 we made a commitment to our customers, that we would hold all of the data we collect in-house, on our own servers,” Schapker says. “Prior to these upgrades, were there to be an event that affected the data center, a natural disaster for example, that would have been the business at stake. Now we have full redundancy in geographically dispersed locations. We are ready to handle a natural or man-made disaster and continue operations with minimal interruptions.”

CDW implemented VMware Site Recovery Manager, which gives Hydromax USA the necessary automation to feel secure in the event of a disaster. Should one occur, Schapker’s team can simply push a button to fail over to the disaster recovery site.  

“SRM also provides the ability to do routine testing without requiring production system outages and special configurations,” says Herb Numrich, CDW senior consulting engineer for virtualization. “Management of the replication and the disaster recovery plans are all integrated into the vSphere Web Client, providing Hydromax with a single pane of glass to manage its disaster recovery solution.”  

The new infrastructure has also minimized downtime and its associated costs. In 2014, the company had 70 hours of unplanned downtime at $10,000 per hour. 

By 2016 the unplanned downtime had been reduced by 96 percent, to just three hours. “Implementing this new infrastructure has really changed our business,“ Schapker says.

 

“We are ready to handle a natural or man-made disaster and continue operations with minimal interruptions.”

Nick Schapker, System Administrator, Hydromax USA


On the Move: Relocating the Data Center 

Photography by Patrick Cavan Brown


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