Growing pains

Growing pains

When a company experiences fast growth, it can be a challenge for older IT infrastructure to absorb the waves of new data

Everybody wants growth. But when it comes thick and fast it can be a challenge for older IT infrastructure to absorb the waves of new data. For SMBs, if their ability to store that all-important information and efficiently capitalise on the opportunity is lacking, they may miss the growth boat. Indeed, having a sound storage strategy that plans for the future is essential to harnessing growth potential.

WA-based integrator, Expanse IT, had been working with Perth-based ISP, Westnet, for over five years providing network appliance solutions. Originally a medium-sized company, in recent years Westnet experienced tremendous growth to become the second-largest ISP in WA with nine datacentres across Australia and 200,000 customers. Nationally the company provides home and business users with dial-up, broadband DSL, satellite, Web hosting and phone services.

To accommodate this growth - 80 per cent over three years - and the concurrent increase in data it created, Expanse IT brought in vendor partner, NetApp, to help with storage.


Initially, Westnet's storage infrastructure consisted of an entry-level Fibre Channel SAN with five trays of fibre attached disks.

While sufficient for its original business operations, this set-up had limited scalability, few features, a complex management system and poor data partitioning. In short, Westnet was ill-equipped to deal with a significant increase in data growth and with a lack of physical redundancy without adequate preparation for a disaster situation.

As the company quickly expanded and faced a flood of new data, the limited storage system threw up the prospect customers would have trouble accessing billing information and the authentication server when trying to connect to the Internet. Clearly, the set-up posed obstacles to maintaining high levels of service and performance.


Considering Westnet was an existing customer, Expanse IT needed to deliver on its track record with a storage solution that integrated smoothly with its own solutions.

"I think we understood NetApp's business value," Expanse IT sales director, Malcolm Cole, said. "The good thing for Westnet was that we were able to provide a unified storage platform. It's not something that just handles their files; it obviously handles all their data. So it means they can put in a technology which handles multiple software layers. That was the strategy in selecting NetApp - the technology was something they could grow with."

The existing relationship, however, did not discount the need to listen to Westnet's concerns while also building on its own experience.

"They were looking for something that could give them both block- and file-based storage. I think it was the fl exibility of the NetApp technology which was the main appeal," Cole said. As part of the strategy, Westnet purchased two NetApp FAS6030s to complement two existing NetApp FAS3020s hosting customer email data.

After settling on the hardware, Westnet began implementing its new storage solution by migrating its email database to one of the more powerful FAS6030s, freeing the FAS3020s to be used for a billing database and Web hosting service. The other FAS6030 was then used to create a redundant filer employing SnapMirror technology.

All in all, the solution aimed to address Westnet's intensifying storage needs, provide scalability for continued growth and address interoperability issues.

"We didn't just sell the technology and get the appliances involved, we worked with them to and fro," Cole said. "So we were capable of deploying the technology as well. And typically, when you are doing a storage deployment you get in-house knowledge. This allowed us to design, architect, plan and deploy the whole solution."

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