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Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) has switched from ageing EMC storage hardware to Pure Storage flash-based arrays in a move that boosted I/O performance, overcame a capacity bottleneck and massively simplified management.
COPFS has dealt with more than 90,000 cases since 2016 and holds huge amounts of data in formats that range from everyday standard Word, PDF and Excel documents, where versioning for legal reasons may see 30 instances of the same file created.
Also, since the pandemic, digital media has been centralised whereas formerly it was held on CDs, USBs, etc, so that CCTV and mobile phone data is now accessible from anywhere.
COPFS’s core work also centres on case management applications that lean heavily on Oracle database environments.
The organisation runs two datacentres – in Glasgow and Edinburgh – with a largely Windows environment and up to 400 VMware virtual servers.
COPFS had been running two EMC VMAX – the storage giant’s former flagship arrays – at each datacentre and each with 72TB of capacity for most of its storage, with a much smaller amount of capacity on Dell EMC Xtremio all-flash arrays for virtual desktops.
Apart from anything else, they were very big, said Adam Biggs, head of IT services at COPFS.
“Each array occupied two full cabinets, so were two metres high and about the same across,” he said. “And they didn’t have dedupe or compression. To add more capacity would have needed an entire extra cabinet.”
Biggs added: “It was spinning disk and it was old, so we were replacing a drive every week. Also, any work on it was a bit of a dark art and we had to get contractors in to do simple things like extend a volume.”
COPFS eventually replaced the EMC hardware with two Pure Storage FlashArray//X50 arrays, each with 120TB of raw capacity that ran to 580TB with data reduction applied.
Pure’s FlashArray//X range is its NVMe flash-equipped storage aimed at high-performance use cases, and which scales potentially to petabytes.
The organisation opted for Pure’s Evergreen programme, in which the customer buys the hardware but can replace components on an agreed upgrade cycle. Pure offers a range of procurement options that extend to as-a-service purchasing, but in this case, COPFS decided it would manage the arrays in-house but get a controller hardware upgrade after four years. COPFS also uses Pure’s SafeMode immutable snapshot provision to protect against ransomware.
Did COPFS consider any options towards as-a-service provision? “It’s a case of capex vs opex and for us as public sector, it suits us to capitalise the investment and operationalise the support and maintenance,” said Biggs.
So, what are the key benefits?
“It’s storage, so if it doesn’t break, no one cares, but it’s good to have the confidence that it will do what the organisation expects,” said Biggs. “Also, being able to manage it simply is good. And support. We’ve had one or two disks die – which is normal – but it’s been fantastic and upgrades have happened without disruption.”
In terms of measurables, the database team has reported I/O improvements of about 15%, he added.