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AccuWeather.com Case Study

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AccuWeather.com crunches more and more data to produce personalized customer forecasts while reducing its need for electrical power and tech support

AccuWeather.com crunches more and more data to produce personalized customer forecasts while reducing its need for electrical power and tech support

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  • 1. AccuWeather.comcrunches more andmore data to producepersonalized customerforecasts while reducingits need for electrical • Backup/Recovery/Archiving • Clustering • Consolidationpower and tech support • Power & Cooling • Virtualization “Based on our rapidly accelerating growth, it’s hard to know exactly what the configuration of the data center is going to look like next year. But our relationship with Dell gives us some tricks up our sleeve in terms of serving our customers better in the future.” Steven Smith, CIO, AccuWeather, Inc. Customer Profile Company: AccuWeather Benefits Industry: Arts, Entertainment and Media • 4- to 6-fold increase in server performance compared with previous Country: United States generation Employees: 400 • 50% less power consumption by each Web: www.accuweather.com blade server • 40% average CPU utilization rate, up Business Need from 13% Producing localized weather forecasts every hour for 2.7 million • 70% projected average CPU utilization locations worldwide is a data-intensive business. As successful rate after virtual machines are moved to forecast provider AccuWeather, Inc. grew, the company encountered blade servers challenges of increased space, power and cooling requirements for its • 38% less IT staff time spent on tech legacy server environment. support • 87% faster rollout of application testing Solution environment (2 hours vs. 2 days) The company consolidated its legacy servers onto a combination • 6-fold increase in size of development of Dell™ PowerEdge™ servers, all with Intel® Xeon® processors. and testing environment Supported by Dell EqualLogic™ PS series SANs, the company’s new IT infrastructure includes a VMware® cluster of 150 virtual machines, • 80% reduction in time spent on storage saving AccuWeather space, power and a lot of IT staff time. administration • Less than 1 hour to install and configure Dell EqualLogic SAN
  • 2. Although we spend much of our time in climate-controlled buildings, modern Americans are fascinated with the weather. A couple centuries ago, local weather patterns directly affected whether families could put food on their table. For most of us today, the typical storm raises questions no more serious than whether to pack an umbrella for the morning commute. Still, as predictive technologies improve, our interest in meteorology balloons. This trend helps explain the rapid growth with Dell gives us some tricks up of AccuWeather, Inc. The company, our sleeve in terms of serving our“Because of the Intel based in State College, Pennsylvania, customers better in the future.” produces localized forecasts and severe 5520 processors, weather alerts for print and online Solving space and power problems the Dell PowerEdge publications, for radio and television broadcasts, and for direct distribution AccuWeather has used Dell servers for years, but for most of that time Dell M610 blades are to companies and individuals. More was one of several vendors to stock than 125 million Americans receive an the firm’s State College data center. giving us four AccuWeather-generated forecast each When that data center began to face to six times the day. The company’s Web portal alone receives as many as 18 million daily hits, challenges to space, power and cooling, the company looked to broaden its performance, in a with major spikes during severe weather. relationship with Dell. much smaller form Coping with a storm of data WeatherData Services, Inc., an Technology at Work factor, compared AccuWeather subsidiary, sends Services with our prior- commercial clients advance notifications about potentially Dell™ Support generation servers.” problematic storms, even when their facility is not part of a National Weather HardwareChristopher Patti, Director of Service warning. And AccuWeather Dell Chassis Management Technology, AccuWeather, Inc. mobile services provides location- Controller based forecasts for every major mobile Dell PowerEdge™ M610 blade manufacturer worldwide, powering servers with Intel® Xeon® 5520 literally tens of millions of devices. processors Generating forecasts as localized Dell PowerEdge M1000e modular as these, in the volume that blade enclosure AccuWeather does, requires vast data Dell PowerEdge R900 servers with stores. Providing weather products Intel Xeon E7330 processors and services on leading-edge communications tools also requires Dell EqualLogic™ PS6000E, a flexible environment for software PS5000E and PS5000XV iSCSI development. “We’re growing by SANs leaps and bounds, both domestically and globally,” says Steven Smith, Software AccuWeather’s CIO. “We need to have Dell EqualLogic Auto-Snapshot an IT infrastructure that is capable of Manager/VMware Edition supporting extremely fast growth.” Microsoft® Windows Server® 2008 For AccuWeather, when it rains data, it and 2003 pours. And when it pours, the company Microsoft Windows® XP and works with Dell. “Based on our rapidly Windows 2000 accelerating growth, it’s hard to know Red Hat® Linux exactly what the configuration of the data center is going to look like next VMware® ESX™ Server year,” Smith adds. “But our relationship
  • 3. “We wanted a partner that would work increasing processing power even with us,” says Smith. “And we found that further by deploying Dell PowerEdge in Dell. We collaborated with Dell to R910 servers with Intel Xeon 7500 series brainstorm potential solutions to our processors and PowerEdge problems.” Together, AccuWeather and blade servers with Intel Xeon 5600 Dell came up with a plan to dramatically series processors. reduce the data center’s consumption “We’ve probably saved five racks’ of space, power and IT staff time worth of space by introducing the by migrating to virtual machines on blades,” Patti says. “Now we’re doing efficient Dell PowerEdge servers. a lot of high-density computing inAccuWeather began replacing its older a much smaller area—and doing soservers with Dell PowerEdge M610 cost effectively, thanks to the M610blade servers with Intel Xeon 5520 blades.” Previously, the company’sprocessors, housed in a Dell M1000e server utilization rate averaged aroundmodular blade enclosure. The company 13 percent. Running virtual machinesalso deployed a VMware ESX cluster on the PowerEdge R900 servers hasof 150 virtual machines on six Dell bumped that rate up to around 40PowerEdge R900 rack-mounted serverswith Intel Xeon E7330 processors percent. When the company moves the virtual infrastructure onto the blade “Dell has trulyconnected to three iSCSI SANs: a Dell servers, Patti expects the utilization rate delivered on itsEqualLogic PS5000XV SAS array, and to jump as high as 70 percent.EqualLogic PS5000E and PS6000E AccuWeather is also saving substantially corporate strategySATA arrays. Together, the SANs provideabout 20 terabytes of shared storage. on energy and cooling. “The blades of IT efficiency are much more efficient than regularThe virtual machines run everything rack-mounted systems as far as power by producingfrom databases to Web servers toback-end business systems. High- consumption is concerned,” says Patti. “We’re saving 50 percent on each one products that areperformance applications such as SQL that we buy. Plus, they’re much more user-friendly toServer run on the SAS array, while lower- efficient in their cooling needs—we’reimpact applications and development not pumping out as much heat.” In administer.”servers run on the SATA arrays. VMware fact, a recent study found that theVirtual Disk (VMDK) images of the virtual Dell PowerEdge M610 server and Dell Christopher Patti, Director of Technology, AccuWeather, Inc.machines are stored on the SANs, EqualLogic storage have a 32.5 percentand Dell EqualLogic Auto-Snapshot performance-per-watt advantage overManager/VMware Edition software the HP ProLiant BL465c server blade andleverages native VMware technology HP StorageWorks EVA 4400 storage.1to create hypervisor-aware, SAN-basedsnapshots of virtual machines, helping New testing environment to simplify data management and in less timeenhancing backup and recovery. The extra room in the data center allows for a development environment that“We’ve really come to rely on the is six times larger than it was before, pricing and reliability of Dell equipment,” and when developers need a new says Christopher Patti, AccuWeather’s server for testing, IT can respond much director of technology. “Dell has more quickly. “We can spin up a virtual become our preferred technology machine in 30 minutes,” says Patti. “In partner. Dell offers simplified, the physical world, putting in a piece one-stop shopping.” of hardware, loading the operatingStaying put, saving money system, running the cable and putting it in the data center would have taken as“By replacing our older servers with long as two days. Now we can give our much more efficient equipment, we’ve developers a test environment in less saved a lot of space in our data center,” than two hours.” explains Patti. “Because of the Intel 5520 processors, the Dell PowerEdge M610 For a company that differentiates blades are giving us four to six times itself through software innovations, the performance, in a much smaller this 87 percent faster rollout of form factor, compared with our prior- testing environments improves the generation servers.” For future hardware viability of the business as a whole purchases, AccuWeather is considering and accelerates time to market for
  • 4. new solutions. “Our developers are 38% More time for innovationdreaming up and building the next Adding a new blade takes the IT staffgeneration of applications and services just two hours, whereas rolling outthat AccuWeather will offer,” says a previous-generation rack-mountSmith. “Now they can thoroughly test server took two days. Dell Chassisan application from the database tier to Management Controller (CMC), athe business logic tier to the application hardware and software solutiontier because it’s so easy to create a that AccuWeather uses for remotevirtual file server, database server and management of the blades, saves theapplication server. This improves the company an average of two hours withquality of our products.” every server deployment. All in all, theA SAN in less than an hour four people dedicated to server and network administration have reducedAccuWeather’s combination of Dell their technical support activities by 38servers, Dell EqualLogic SANs and percent—from 80 percent of their timevirtualization is saving tremendous to about 50 percent.amounts of IT staff time. In addition torolling out testing environments more “Our systems operations folks usedquickly, the company has reduced time to spend a lot of time doing patching,spent on storage administration by 80 installation, regular vanilla-type stuff,”percent, and it’s saving five figures a year Patti says. “Now they’re involved inby eliminating calls to external storage infrastructure decisions, in creatingexperts. “The EqualLogic SANs are ideas. We’ve freed up a third of theirincredibly easy to use,” Patti says. “We time toward innovation.”can very quickly create a point-in-time More important, now IT staff memberssnapshot, do all our work on it, upgrade can cross-train on multiple products.it and then roll it out to production. A Patti explains: “Before, we had tomajor system upgrade that would have have a server person. We had to havepreviously taken three people a week a network person. We had to have acan be done by our server administrator storage person and a backup person.in one day.” Now one person on our core IT supportThe initial installation of the arrays was staff is able to pick up where the otheralso simplified. “Everyone says the move person left off. Dell has truly deliveredto EqualLogic takes minutes rather on its corporate strategy of IT efficiencythan weeks,” Patti reports. “That’s hard by producing products that are user-to believe, but it’s true. Our guys were friendly to administer.”able to rack-mount a SAN, fire it up, gothrough some GUIs and attach a few 1 Source: Principled Technologies, Inc., “Virtualized online transaction processing (OLTP) workloadcables, and in less than an hour they performance comparison of end-to-end solutions,” ahad the storage attached to a server. March 2009 report commissioned by Dell.The EqualLogic deployment is 100percent as advertised.”View all Dell case studies at: dell.com/casestudiesAvailability and terms of Dell Services vary by region. For more information, visit: dell.com/servicedescriptions© August 2010. Intel and Intel Xeon are registered trademarks of Intel Corporation in the United States or othercountries. This case study is for informational purposes only. Microsoft, Windows and Windows Server areregistered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries or both. DELL MAKES NOWARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS CASE STUDY. Reference number: 10008251
  • 5. Virtualization For more info on Virtualization, visit: http://del.ly/virtualization Visit our other communitiesfacebook.com/dellenterprise linkedin/com/groups/dell-enterprise Blogtwitter.com/dellenterprise en.community.dell.com Dellenterpriseefficiency.com TC delltechcenter.comyoutube.com/delllargeenterprise slideshare.com/dellenterprise