With thousands of employees and volunteers accessing their network, Archdiocese Salzburg needed to connect two geographically separate data centers with the highest levels of network performance.
The archdiocese worked with IBM to implement an IBM FlashSystem solution ensuring that thousands of congregants can access their services securely and without delay
Eliminated bottlenecksand ensured always-on performance and service delivery
10 - 20ximproved response time
$80,000 savedaccessing two 10-gigabits bandwidth
A bottleneck between users and services
Although it is one of the oldest districts of the Catholic Church in Europe, Austria’s Archdiocese Salzburg needs the most modern technology solutions so that employees, volunteers, and other users who rely on the church for support of various kinds can always instantly connect with vital services.
Archdiocese Salzburg has its own network — called Diocese Network — between over 320 locations and 2,500 active users, including clergy, staff, and congregants. Those users rely on the network for central IT services including email, web access, firewalls, and even phone systems, requiring high performance and high availability. Reliable connectivity and service on their IP network was critical, especially when network demand increased dramatically during the COVID-19 quarantine due to staffers working from home.
To reach the level of network reliability crucial for stable operation, the archdiocese relies on two different data centers, but the distance between them was leading to bottlenecks, resulting in low performance, delays and frozen screens for users.
These network delays were partially a result of the unique situation the archdiocese faces as a part of such a historic district, where legal restrictions prohibit running connections through or under various monuments and noteworthy buildings. Because of these local restrictions, dark fibre for the Fibre Channel connections between the two data centers were not possible. Archdiocese Salzburg needed to come up with a different way to connect the archdiocese with its two data centers while still maintaining the utmost in data security.
Building a better connection
Faced with a unique problem, Archdiocese Salzburg was looking for a high-availability solution to provide always-on services and replace the traditional disk storage they had been using. IBM proposed a FlashSystem solution built with IBM Spectrum Virtualize because of its high levels of functionality and the automated, high-availability of IBM HyperSwap®, which self-heals to prevent downtime if there is a hardware failure.
However, restrictions on using dark fibre in a historic district required a unique implementation replacing Fibre Channel connections with iSCSI Extensions for RDMA (iSER). iSER provides performance that rivals Fibre Channel, but over TCP/IP connections that can be routed through existing public networks.
This new network environment is much simpler: it doesn’t require SAN switches or routers between differing protocols to provide a consolidated connectivity with 20 gigabits of bandwidth for the church and its network users.
With the new IBM FlashSystem 7200 systems and the use of IBM FlashCore® Modules, together with iSER networking, the archdiocese is getting 10-20x better response times than before. This change to FlashCore technology also means better encryption, security, and data efficiency.
While one of the data centers is housed privately, the other is managed in a data center with multiple customers, and thus the archdiocese requires FlashCore Modules to encrypt their data and keep it safe. This is especially important because so much of the data handled by the archdiocese is highly sensitive, as it includes information like the annual incomes of congregants.
According to Würflinger, “It’s the first time that we can do encryption on both storages — on flash and even between the network. This was something that was important for us. Especially because the encryption is live.”
Furthermore, by using IBM Storage Insights and IBM Spectrum Control™, the archdiocese gets exactly the tools they need to monitor the vital data on their storage system, such as an easy-to-use dashboard that reports on the health and utilization of the storage system. According to Würflinger, “It predicts storage development, so you can plan where to invest and you know if you need to expand the system, for example.”
The switch from Fibre Channel to TCP/IP is not only an immediate transformation for the archdiocese, but will also reap future benefits. The church plans to use more cloud services to make it easier to access their massive, historical archive of works dating back over 1,000 years, while still keeping GDPR in mind during the process of digitization. This will allow the citizens of Salzburg and further afield to find relevant information about their family histories and heritage.
Breaking the bottleneck
By using IBM FlashSystem technology and switching from Fibre Channel to TCP/IP and iSER, Würflinger found that Archdiocese Salzburg’s performance problems were completely solved: “We have no freezes on the full desktop, and we have optimal security. From my point of view, it enabled us to increase the workload on the storage, which we needed for new projects. And it was the first time that we relied on compression.” Using compression from FlashCore Modules resulted in capacity compression savings of 30-40%, while moving to a 2U solution helped the archdiocese save on rack space and operational expenses.
Würflinger isn’t the only one seeing the benefits of the TCP/IP solutions, though. He notes that, “The users told us that they have faster log-on times, they have faster access to, for example, phone calls.”
Much of this increased performance comes from the archdiocese finally being able to utilize the full bandwidth that is available to them. Although they have the same bandwidth available from their local phone company as before, they couldn’t use it with the Fibre Channel IP routers they had. Now, with the native TCP/IP attachment of the IBM FlashSystem 7200, they are able to utilize the full bandwidth of 20 gigabits, which is 5 times more than the previous FC/IP Router based solution.
This increase in available bandwidth saves Archdiocese Salzburg a great deal of money, as well. Previously the archdiocese could not use their full bandwidth without acquiring additional licenses for the Fibre Channel IP routers in order to use 10 gig links. The cost was about $80,000 for licenses to use the two 10-gigabit links, which the archdiocese no longer needs to pay today thanks to their new infrastructure solution.
Switching over to TCP/IP and iSER, and implementing IBM FlashSystem storage, was the right decision for Archdiocese Salzburg for many reasons, Würflinger believes: “We have eliminated the cost and complexity of maintaining a SAN solution, reduced operational costs in our housing data center and improved our response times by 10 -20x. And with Spectrum Control, we have a more cost-effective monitoring solution that brings predictive technology to our storage system.”
On the whole, Archdiocese Salzburg has eliminated its bottlenecks thanks to these solutions, providing faster connections for Diocese Network users and easier access to the religious and social services they rely on. As Würflinger sums up, “I cannot say how many different ways that we’ve experienced better performance.”
Archdiocese Salzburg — the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Salzburg — is one of the oldest districts of the Catholic Church in Europe, founded in the year 700. Beyond just performing traditional work of the Church, ranging from regular religious services to baptisms, marriages, and funerals, they also provide a number of social services to the Salzburg community. These include a system of fourteen private schools, hotel guest houses, educational programs for adults, counseling services on the phone and in person, and community service/outreach endeavors.
Take the next step
To learn more about the IBM solutions featured in this story, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following websites: www.ibm.com/it-infrastructure/storage