Published: August 15th, 2014

When the IT staff at the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) was asked to bring a new service online, the first thing they’d always check was if they had enough storage. Now, after a storage upgrade to the latest Hewlett-Packard Co. solution, storage is the least of their worries.

The ATA is the professional organization of teachers in Alberta, and its IT team both supports its staff and provides a number of services to its teacher members. An older storage environment was starting to make delivering quality IT services to its stakeholders challenging said Chris Stogowski, enterprise infrastructure architect and team lead for information and technology services with the ATA.

“When we started looking for a storage solution we already had an HP storage system in our environment, but the smaller disk and tape arrays didn’t give us the flexibility we needed when it came to growth. We found we were moving a lot of data and it just wasn’t flexible,” said Stogowski. “We needed something central and easy to grow that could move data easily.”

The ATA’s mandate, dealing with all the province’s teachers as well as the provincial government, means the organization often has to react quickly to changes in policy and program that can’t always be predicted, and the IT organization needs to be ready to support that with a nimble IT architecture.

“It’s hard to roadmap from year-to-year what our products and solutions will be,” said Stogowski.

When the decision was made to upgrade its storage architecture, ATA turned to PC Corp., its solution provider partner for over five years.

“They’re absolutely wonderful to work with,” said Stogowski. “Any time we ask them for something they’re always on the spot and very helpful. They definitely work for their customer, and not the bottom line.”

Working with their channel partner to survey the storage landscape, ATA’s goal was an easy-to-manage virtual storage system to support its mission-critical programs. Stogowski said they quickly found most of the storage systems on the market were either geared to the large enterprise and therefore too expensive, or were too small to meet ATA’s needs.

“Things kind of dried up, which was disappointing,” said Stogowski. “But when HP 3Par came out, PC Corp. came to us and said you guys need to check out this solution. It just seemed to be the perfect fit, like it was made for our size of business.”

Working with PC Corp. and HP, ATA designed an HP 3PAR StoreServe-based solution that was implemented about one year ago. Stogowski said HP helped customize the solution for their needs and worked with them to build it, right down to the cables, and it came configured by HP. ATA purchased implementation services, and HP came in to plug in the rack and help with configuration.

“It was really simple; they helped us all the way through,” said Stogowski.

A year out, while performance has obviously improved significantly, Stogowski said he’s really been pleased with how hands-off the new architecture has been for his team.

“In the past, when we were asked to build a new server for whatever project, it was always stressful finding where we were going to put the data. All those questions have disappeared,” said Stogowski. “Now, when someone asks us for a server we don’t look to see it we have the storage capacity, we’re looking to see if we have the server capacity to run it. With virtual drives and Hyper-V, it’s pretty much hands off.”

Another benefit has been the regular service enhancements to the 3PAR platform, with new features regularly coming on that ATA is learning to use and leverage.

“It works as described or better, and we’re looking to leverage even more features of the 3PAR system,” said Stogowski. “We’re finding features showing up every once and awhile and that’s very welcome.”