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Speed and scalability

Founded in 1929 by Stephen Grundon, this family owned company is the largest privately owned waste management group in the UK. The company is well respected nationally for its professionalism and is acknowledged to be in the vanguard of waste management practice and innovation.


Date: 16 Jan 2012

Grundon has developed from a local aggregate supply business into a national commercial group in the industrial services sector, with interests in Waste Management, Minerals Development and Facilities Management.

Constant appraisal of market trends and a continuing investment in research and development are at the heart of Grundon’s successful leadership in the market place. Current research includes hazardous waste collection from domestic premises, improved recycling facilities for domestic and industrial waste including hazardous materials and improved site restoration for leisure use on completed landfill sites.

Grundon is also actively investigating alternative technologies for the management of all types of waste and have hydroclave facilities at Knowl Hill, near Maidenhead in the UK to treat low-grade clinical and health care wastes and animal by-product waste.

Key Storage Issues
2010 marked a year of change and expansion for Grundon. With the opening in October of the Lakeside Energy from Waste facility on the edge of London which is capable of processing 410,000 tonnes of residual waste per year from local authorities and businesses and producing 37 Megawatts of power, plus a move to new corporate headquarters in November 2010.

With a head count of over 700 employees across 16 sites within the UK, the Grundon IT infrastructure is under constant pressure to provide service delivery for both internal staff and customers while retaining the capability to expand as performance and capacity needs grow.

“One key focus is the reduction of physical paper storage across all areas of the business”, explained Steve Short, ICT Manager at Grundon.

Although compliance requires Grundon to keep some hard copy, wherever possible they try to store electronic content only. Many sites have scanners coupled to a new document management system (DMS) managed by Steve and his team at the head quarters data centre, which is used for document storage wherever possible.

“With an initial output of 30GB per week our DMS system soon started to exceed the storage capacity of our Xyratex based storage arrays, so we needed to find a solution with greater capacity and performance”, added Steve.

Grundon started to look at a number of external storage array solutions in late 2009 which would give maximum performance in conjunction with their 4Gb Fibre Channel (FC) infrastructure and allow seamless storage expansion plus an upgrade path to 8Gb FC for investment protection. Grundon worked with their long standing Storage & Virtualisation Partner NCE, who proposed the Dot Hill AssuredSAN series as the ideal candidate.

Developing a storage infrastructure with performance and scalability

Steve Short recalls, “We contacted NCE who had been a trusted advisor for many years and they proposed the Dot Hill AssuredSAN series for its flexibility, performance and renowned pedigree in the market. We did not see the need to move our FC infrastructure to 8Gb at that time so we chose the Dot Hill AssuredSAN 5730 which was the performance flagship in their 4GB FC external SAN storage range. We conducted an IT review where we calculated the amount of data stored, looked at the number of users, number of mail boxes plus the number of emails sent and received. It came to the equivalent of 20 million iTunes songs. It has increased since then!”

In February 2010 the first pair of Dot Hill AssuredSAN 5730 arrays were installed housing 12 x 600GB SAS drives. The 5730 arrays support the demands of the DMS system and the needs of many of Grundon’s business critical applications. The majority of the data is SQL server databases with a large amount of user data. Since the advent of digital photos, storage has gone through the roof and the DMS also takes up a lot of space as Grundon convert as much physical storage to digital storage.

“When we installed the 5730s we went from RAID 6 to RAID 5, so we went to faster disks and dropped a RAID level, but in fairness we’ve never had a disk fail. So RAID 6 was looking a bit of an overkill, we used it for a while but once we realised the slight performance hit we took, we decided we didn’t need it. We now run RAID 5 with a hot spare in each system, it just works and alerts us if anything happens, then we just replace the single disk”, Steve Short.

For Steve, performance is high on his agenda, “I don’t have a written SLA with my users, but we do try and put speed over everything else. I want someone to be able to put an order on as soon as possible, and I don’t want the computer to be the slowest piece in that link, and part of that is serving the data back”.

A complete Disaster Recovery (DR) infrastructure for business continuity

Grundon incorporated the Dot Hill arrays within a virtualised storage environment in order to provide a replication solution for their main business applications. Data is replicated across 7 of their main operating sites, with a storage array installed at each location. Steve explains their DR system, “The main business system is replicated across all 7 depots, so if one depot disappears, the rest keep on functioning, if the head office disappears, we’ve actually got two server rooms in our new offices, one in the main building, and another in a steel vandal-proof portacabin in an out building, all of the data is replicated between the two. So we mirror and replicate both disk arrays to each other. I have dual redundancy at the head office site, and at all of the other depots the data is mirrored back to all of the other sites, so the staff can relocate to any other depot, logon, and continue to work”.

Investment protection through data-in-place migration

Steve explains an important highlight of the AssuredSAN solutions: “A key feature of the Dot Hill AssuredSAN series which set it apart from many of the competitive solutions we explored is the common web based interface and physical footprint across the entire range. This enables us to upgrade for more capacity, software features or performance in the future with complete reuse of our original investment in the Dot Hill 5730 systems”.

“Our data is now growing at a ridiculous rate, a while a go we put in a new HR system, and we were scanning in loads of stuff, putting photos into the system, and we were going through 30 GB of disk a week, and I sat there wondering where all this data was coming from! If we look at the data over the past three years it’s been a fairly steady growth, the ‘spikes’ were putting in a document management system which involves our entire purchase ledger, every invoice we receive, we scan”, adds Steve.

All of the Dot Hill AssuredSAN external storage arrays are based on the same highly modular design, which means that future upgrades within the range are very easy and allow reuse of existing data and expansion chassis. This approach avoids the complete fork-lift style of upgrade that is needed with many competitive solutions when moving up the range for more performance, or to embrace new interface protocol speeds. We call this feature data-in-place migration.

Storage consolidation with a path to the future

Grundon plans to extend its storage area network with further products from the Dot Hill AssuredSAN series, not only to cater for the steady data output from their DMS system but to replace further legacy systems and build in further levels of disaster recovery. Progression to the Dot Hill AssuredSAN 3000 series would not only provide them with an 8Gb Fibre Channel platform but also deliver the option to incorporate powerful array based data management software such as remote replication and snapshot; capabilities which can boost productivity and provide the foundations for a robust disaster recovery solution. “The Dot Hill platform has met and even exceeded our performance needs at a price point that was well within our budget, we will certainly be considering the Dot Hill AssuredSAN systems as we grow our infrastructure and replace legacy systems”, Steve Short.

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