The show must go on
With a Dell|EMC CX600 SAN in a leading role, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts ensures that its infrastructure can scale to give a winning performance around the clock
Challenge: Scale existing storage network technology to manage growing and unpredictable capacity demands, ensure high availability, and enable disaster recovery functionality
Solution: Deploy a scalable, redundant enterprise storage solution based on the
Dell|EMC CX600 platform, featuring 2 Gbps Fibre Channel technology and leveraging EMC® MirrorViewTM and EMC SnapViewTM software, and one DellTM PowerVaultTM 136T tape backup system
Benefit: An efficient, scalable, and comprehensive solution meets growing storage
demands without sacrificing performance—both behind the scenes and in front of the curtain
Built in 1971, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts sprawls gracefully over 17 acres on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. A living monument to human artistic achievement, this legendary facility hosts countless theater, music, and multimedia productions each year, while welcoming some 2 million audience members. In addition, the Kennedy Center Web site (www.kennedy-center.org) regularly attracts more than 30,000 visitors each day with its downloadable performance recordings, online ticket sales, and other useful resources.
Growing popularity recently placed the Kennedy Center smack in the middle of an
IT crunch. The facility needed a way to tackle numerous new infrastructure demands—including a need for greater storage capacity and availability—without sacrificing performance and without increasing budget or management resources. The organization's data was growing by 30 percent annually and could expand even faster in the coming years. Well satisfied with its existing DellTM hardware and services, the center's IT staff
opted to implement a Dell|EMC CX600 enterprise storage platform as a scalable and efficient solution to its storage needs.
Dell Professional Services makes SAN rollout a straightforward production
For the past several years, the Kennedy Center has enjoyed a strong relationship with Dell. Kennedy Center CIO Alan Levine says the facility initially needed basic desktop functionality, and Dell met that requirement. "But as Dell began to grow into the enterprise and add additional services, we grew together," Levine says. "The choice to continue expanding our infrastructure with Dell was a logical one." Over time, the Kennedy Center acquired close to 600 Dell OptiPlexTM desktops and Dell LatitudeTM notebooks and more than 40 Dell PowerEdgeTM servers.
The Center's infrastructure also expanded to include multiple Dell PowerVault 650
storage servers and PowerVault tape libraries. Although these components performed well, Levine says the Center was ready to scale up. "Five years ago, we could predict the load on our systems with a great degree of control and accuracy," he says. "But the world today is very different. We learned quickly that operating on the Web can cause great fluctuations in the load on our system. We needed the help of new and more powerful technologies to handle whatever comes our way. Once again, Dell had the answer."
After thoroughly researching available options, Levine and his staff opted to consolidate the organization's multiple PowerVault 650 storage servers into a single Dell|EMC CX600 enterprise RAID array. With the help of Dell Professional Services (DPS), implementation of the new storage area network (SAN) platform lasted roughly one month. "We had a very smooth rollover," Levine says. "As a CIO, it's important to me that we remain agile and can implement new technologies rapidly and efficiently, while also developing the skills and expertise of our staff. Working with Dell Professional
Services has allowed us to do exactly that. They have the expertise and resources we need to get a project like this implemented quickly. At the same time, we can work with DPS to ensure a knowledge transfer so that our own staff learns quickly and can continue to
manage the systems very effectively and efficiently."
Increased efficiency in the data center is one of the leading benefits of the consolidation
effort. According to Levine, the transition was fairly seamless in terms of resources, allowing the organization to accomplish more with less. "We are still operating with the same size staff and the same size budget we had just four years ago, despite incredible growth in the quantity of work we complete, in the number of functions we support, and in the volume of transactions we experience."
Dell hardware manages behind-the-scenes storage
In addition, the Dell|EMC CX600 platform brings to the Kennedy Center an impressive
amount of storage capacity and processing speed—features that have become essential to the infrastructure as the Center expands its online performance database. Every day, the Center broadcasts a live performance over the Internet, and then archives each performance into an online multimedia library.
The Kennedy Center now offers almost four years' worth of performances available
for download from its Web site—about three quarters of a terabyte in raw data that resides in a Microsoft® SQL Server database. "The CX600 supports all of that data," says Dan Backer, enterprise systems manager at the Kennedy Center. "The Dell|EMC line provides a phenomenal amount of storage." Furthermore, the new Dell|EMC SAN supports Fibre Channel technology, enabling rapid data delivery and helping the Center to satisfy user needs quickly.
Increased data capacity and performance also is important to the Center's ability to maintain progress in its various community enrichment programs. "The Kennedy Center runs a Web site called Arts Edge, which is dedicated to providing resources to K-12 educators around the world. The CX600 enables us to continue to enrich that site, and others, with more meaningful content," Levine says.
Dell keeps the show running
One reason that the Kennedy Center decided to implement the CX600 platform is that the organization needed high availability and the ability to recover quickly after a disaster. "Given that we are an around-the-clock facility running physical performances on eight stages throughout the day and virtual performances on demand via the Internet," Levine says, "redundancy cannot be stressed enough." In addition to online ticket sales, the
Center's physical box office and gift shop sales, seating assignments, and even parking
garage payment transactions hinge on the availability of the Center's Dell-based IT
infrastructure. "Any outage in our systems not only could cause a great deal of inconvenience for thousands of people instantly, but also could result in a very immediate
revenue loss for the organization."
"Naturally, one of the most attractive features of the Dell|EMC platform was its
disaster recovery options," Backer says. With the help of EMC® MirrorViewTM and
SnapViewTM technology, the Kennedy Center now can mirror all of its critical content and system functionality to a second data center—a process enabled by the Fibre Channel link between the facilities. In addition, the presence of a second data center facilitates load balancing to ensure consistent system performance and efficiency.
Dell relationship sets the stage for future growth
Kennedy Center CIO Alan Levine is confident that his organization's ongoing
growth will be matched by consistently high-performing technology from Dell. "We continue to need more functionality. Our customer expectations continue to evolve and change, and we need to respond to those changes rapidly. Using the CX600 platform, we operate our business with the same or fewer resources than before. And as we continue to become more sophisticated in our infrastructure, Dell likely will continue to be one step
ahead, ready for us."