NSW Rural Fire Service uses virtual storage to avoid data outages

A two-minute outage could endanger someone’s life, says IT manager Ashley Van Amstel

New South Wales Rural Fire Service is halfway through a virtual storage implementation at its two data centres in Sydney which will improve real-time data access when staff are mobilising to fight bushfires.

The organisation began implementing EMC’s VPLEX in October 2013. The solution has allowed it to move data workloads between the two data centres without losing information.

NSW Rural Fire Service IT manager Ashely Van Amstel told Computerworld Australia he began moving non-critical systems over first to make sure everything was in order.

“Summer is ending now so we’re starting to put the more critical systems on now. One of these is an incidence response management system called ICON.”

The VPLEX implementation is also being undertaken to avoid outages between the organisation’s primary data centre in Homebush and a secondary facility in Sydney’s CBD.

“We can’t afford outages, especially during summer. A two minute outage may mean someone’s life,” Van Amstel said.

This is because the ICON system includes fire mapping data, resources available to fight the fire – such as helicopters and fire trucks – and information about where the fire is spreading to.

“If we had an outage, we might not be able to control the resources. If the fire changes direction, it would be hard to get that information out there,” he said.

Van Amstel expects the VPLEX implementation will be complete by 30 June 2014.

Next on the list of technology projects is the migration of its CBD data centre by late 2014. As part of the NSW government’s Data Centre Reform Strategy to reduce 130 data centres down to two Tier III facilities at Silverwater and Unanderra, the NSW Rural Fire Service has to migrate its data centres.

“The plan is to move our CBD data centre first and in the 2015 financial year, we’ll have to move our [Homebush] data centre.”

The organisation is also ramping up its mobility strategy with increased use of tablets. It has approximately 100 tablets in use at present.

“We’ve found that it is cheaper to use standard tablets because if one gets broken, they are cheaper to replace. Often, the ruggedised tablets are more expensive. Not many [standard] tablets get broken. The firefighters are quite careful with them,” he said.

In addition, there are plans to roll out Riverbed’s wide area network (WAN) acceleration system to 100 rural fire stations across the state.

“Some of these [stations] are in country towns where getting networking links in is quite difficult. We might have a small ADSL link for the firestation and that’s it. The acceleration system will save a lot of data from going over the WAN,” he said.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

Tags VPLEXvirtual storagestorageNSW Rural Fire Serviceemc

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