Apr 22 2013

Turnkey Systems Streamline Federal Operations

Agencies save time and money and boost IT performance with integrated appliances that are easy to set up and manage.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention runs a private computing cloud based on the NetApp and Cisco Systems FlexPod unified computing infrastructure.

In 2010, CDC’s Informatics Research and Development Activity deployed HP ProLiant DL 380/360 servers, 10 Gigabit QLogic converged network adapters, Cisco Nexus 5010 switches and NetApp FAS3160 storage devices that use VMware virtualization to run a private cloud, says Dale LaValley, lead technology engineer for the agency.

By tapping a preconfigured solution, CDC gains the benefits of a turnkey approach. For example, the FlexPod gear includes unified target adapters that connect the storage directly to other network devices. “We reduced the number of our Fibre [Channel] connections, which helped streamline the infrastructure and increase efficiency.”

Dr. Tom Savel, director of CDC’s Informatics Research and Development Activity division, says the upgraded computing system enables the team to offer scientists a testing sandbox for CDC’s public health programs. “Let’s say a research team studying birth defects wants to look at a new piece of analytics software,” Savel says. “It’s now much easier for us to set up a virtualized sandbox for them to test the software to see if it’s of value to them before they buy.”


The percentage of IT managers who say ease of management the leading benefit of an integrated computing platform

SOURCE: “Virtual Computing Infrastructure” (Enterprise Strategy Group, January 2012)

The other big benefit: The various public health programs don’t have to buy equipment to run such a test. In addition to the sandbox, the informatics group offers rapid prototype development and consulting services. “Our research cloud helps scientists work faster and more efficiently,” Savel says. “It’s a resource we’re proud to provide to CDC and the public health community.”

Mark Bowker, a senior analyst for Enterprise Strategy Group, says these types of management efficiencies move IT departments toward turnkey systems such as Exinda WAN optimization devices.

“Data centers are expensive and complex, so anything that can take out the guesswork and save time is most welcome,” Bowker says. “Put all of that together, and it becomes very compelling for IT managers.”

Staying Agile

The Veterans Affairs Department has been working toward converged data centers for several years. With a mission of improving service to veterans, the VA seeks to reduce IT acquisition time, enable agile methodologies and be able to scale up IT resources on demand.

“Today, infrastructure can be delivered faster, and standardized commodity components make systems more reliable and support easier problem resolution,” says Christopher Shorter, director of enterprise operations for the VA’s Office of Information and Technology.

Shorter says the VA was an early adopter of both server and storage virtualization. The benefits of virtualization include eliminating the typical hardware and software acquisition time of six to nine months for each application. He says applications are now deployed in days and weeks instead of months.

“Other benefits include reduced maintenance costs,” Shorter says. “The homogeneous framework for servers, software and storage allows better resource utilization and reduced costs to maintain the virtual machine or cloud computing infrastructure.”