Promoter consolidates with blades

Creata Promotion, a Sydney-based international marketing company, has consolidated nearly all of its global domain backups on blade servers as part of an infrastructure consolidation project.

Creata’s information technology vice president Michael Ashby said the international branches were largely autonomous and needed integrating.

“With between 300 and 350 staff spread across 18 international branches, we set ourselves a goal of bringing the smaller offices in line without breaking the budget,” Ashby said.

“As a promotions company we are always looking at how IT can improve speed to market. And IT has a strong role to play in rapid prototyping.”

As a promotion agency, Creata works with multinational companies such as McDonalds to design novelty packaging and toys.

“After migrating off Novell to Windows 2000 and Active Directory we needed at least three servers in each location,” he said. “One domain controller, one backup domain controller, a file and print server, and a Lotus Notes server.”

Wanting to consolidate all the backup servers in one location, Ashby chose HP’s Proliant BL 10e server blades without any previous experience with that type of hardware.

“Our main production servers are all Compaq 1U rack mounted with hot-swappable disks,” Ashby said. “The price of nine DL 380 1U servers compared favourably with that for the blade chassis, the control server and 10 blades. HP’s blades also compared well with other options.”

Creata had purchased one Dell rack-mounted server, which Ashby described as “cheaper, slower, and ugly”.

“Since the blades are being used as a backup server there is no need for multiple levels of redundancy,” Ashby said. “If a blade goes down we would slot in a new one and the image will be automatically deployed to it.”

Creata did the installation using in-house skills and Ashby described the performance as “fantastic”.

“The only thing I would have done differently would be to choose a chassis with integrated networking,” he said. “Right now we have an Ethernet cable coming out of each blade.”

According to Ashby, blades will certainly be considered for future purchasing.

“Our office space is at a premium, so being able to have up to 20 servers in a 3U chassis suits us,” he said. “If we were to put any more than nine 1U servers in we would have required another UPS.” With the backup server in place, Creata is now looking at running Citrix off a clustered blade environment.

Ashby said Creata tried a new approach with its vendors and recommended other IT managers ask more of their vendors. “If a vendor is telling us it will work, we want a right of return if it doesn’t work.”

Ashby said that performance factors should also be considered when negotiating hardware purchasing.

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