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Oxford Sets Up On Demand Computing and Storage with VMware and DataCore

Oxford University Computing Services (OUCS) is implementing DataCore Software's SANmelody as the storage platform behind a new on-demand computing initiative. OUCS Network Systems Management Service provides IT services for all members of the university by centrally operating, developing, and supporting Oxford's primary computing infrastructure and services on a charge-back basis across 25 colleges and 15 departments. As a department, NSMS' time is frequently spent supporting smaller departments with very limited IT resources.

The network group is moving toward adoption of a self-automated, self-provisioning, Web-based virtualized model (known internally as "VM4rent") by, in effect, renting virtual machines to its customers. Previously the data center would provide storage services out across fiber channel storage area networks served by IBM/EMC direct-attached storage. The infrastructure behind the VM4rent model includes two centralized VMware ESX 3.5 servers and virtualized storage through DataCore's SANmelody, supporting VMware applications and provisioning storage on demand. This approach is useful for those departments that require a temporary service--such as a research project that has been granted funding for a year. Departments will also be able to join forces and budgets to use joint active system failover protection provided with the SANmelody set-up.

DataCore partner NCE began working with the network group in 2007 to recommend ways of provisioning storage to facilitate the VM4rent infrastructure. After an on-site demonstration, NSMS purchased the first part of the infrastructure system in 2008. A SANmelody three-terabyte iSCSI SAN was installed to virtualize storage.

Provisioning new machines and storage under VM4rent consists of imaging the server template already stored in SANmelody.

"The principles behind our VM4rent scheme are perfectly echoed and served by SANmelody, allowing us to plug in storage and support virtual servers as and when we need, ultimately providing a cost-effective storage solution that we are happy to recommend," said Jon Hutchings, senior systems engineer in network services.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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