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Legacy file systems, away: Dealing with an unsupported file system

When the City of Aurora, Colo. heard that its legacy file system would no longer be supported, it had to act fast.

What do you do when you've found the perfect solution to your problem, but it's no longer supported?

This was the issue that faced the City of Aurora, Colo. Longtime users of the PolyServe file system to control their sprawling data and physical hardware, they learned in March 2012 that PolyServe would not support SQL Server editions after SQL Server 2005. While there were multiple benefits to using the legacy file system, the highest priorities for the city's IT shop are high availability, disaster recovery, sprawl control and keeping Microsoft licensing costs low. Aurora's IT workers would have to find a system that could do all of this … and fast.

The city of Aurora's IT shop consists of 87 total instances of SQL Server, of which five are on DxConsole and 30 are virtualized. They also have three physical servers. They are currently in the process of migrating from SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2008 R2 to SQL Server 2012. They also run a Fleet system called "Faster" and a financial system by SunGard Public sector called ONESolution.

Danny Santee, senior enterprise system architect for the City of Aurora, acted quickly to find another solution. There was a brief consideration of running SQL Server on VMware to control sprawl, but prohibitive cost ruled that out fairly quickly, according to Santee. The next option they considered was DH2i's DxConsole, with Santee admitting that its affordable cost was the major factor in the city’s choosing it. Santee also wanted to avoid moving to the Enterprise Edition of SQL Server, which would have been necessary had they decided to use Hyper-V.

The planning stage began almost right away, in March 2012, and was in production by July that same year -- which might be considered breakneck speed in the public sector. Integrating a new system into an established one almost always means hiccups along the way, and this was no exception. Santee said that all the bugs they ran into were through Melio, an active/active file server and component of the DxConsole manufactured by Sanbolic. Luckily, the glitches came to the surface during a 30-day free trial that DH2i extended to 60 days.

"We were the first customer of [DH2i] using a Dell Compellent SAN," Santee said. "Because we were the first using Compellent, we had to continuously re-disable SCSI reservations. SQL instances would not start up, because they could not find the disk drives. We were concerned about the third-party app. Server 1 would see [the application], but 2 and 3 wouldn't."

For more information on legacy systems

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Santee contacted DH2i and their customer service impressed him.

"DH2i added value by asking Sanbolic to fix [the issues]," he said. "Sanbolic issued three patches to the City of Aurora and our systems. This now works with [our] Dell Compellent SANs fine." He now checks that all applications and hardware his team uses will be compatible with DxConsole -- it's a first priority when considering vendors.

There have been multiple benefits for the IT team.

"We're generally seeing things take half as long, timewise," says Steve Black, database administrator at the City of Aurora.

Santee added that it makes the DBA task easier. "For example, we use Idera SQL Diagnostic manager, and it has [fewer] instances to look at because we are consolidating many databases into our instances on DH2i," he said. Santee added that the city already reports fairly high consolidation ratios -- 20 instances over four servers -- and expects the ratio to increase with DH2i.

"Their support for us has been outstanding," he said. "The staff knows exactly what the issues are and a few times they've helped. … They have the expertise to handle it."

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