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Carnival Cruise Lines sails with iSCSI

Lucas Mearian | Feb. 2, 2011
There's no reason for FUD in deploying iSCSI, says Carnival's exec

FRAMINGHAM 2 FEBRUARY 2011 - Like many enterprise IT shops, Carnival Cruise Lines relied on Fibre Channel-based storage area networks (SANs) over the past 20 years to support its 43,000 employees and dozens of ships. But, when it came time to refresh its technology, the cruise line skipped the traditional forklift upgrade of monolithic boxes in favor of an Ethernet-based, modular architecture.

This month, the cruise line finished its two-and-a-half year changeover to Internet SCSI (iSCSI) SANs running over copper wire and Ethernet and a VMware-based virtualized server infrastructure. The change has reduced its total cost of ownership for hardware, software and maintenance by 60% from its previous architecture, and greatly increased system performance through a combination of solid state disk and serial ATA hard drives in the arrays.

The company began its IT switch on land first, replacing three EMC Symmetrix arrays, four Clariion arrays and one Celerra network-attached storage server in its Miami data center with Dell EqualLogic iSCSI arrays. It then replaced EMC arrays on 22 ships with the same iSCSI SAN technology.

Through use of iSCSI and virtualization of its server environment, the company was able to reduce its shipboard IT footprint by about 60%, reclaim about 7,000 hours per year in IS management, achieve a 38% performance improvement for its Oracle data warehouse, and meet a four-hour recovery time objective for virtual machines through SAN-based replication.

Doug Eney, vice president of IS engineering, said the decision to move to an Ethernet-based storage architecture was relatively simple after a free test bed set up by Dell demonstrated it could exceed the company's performance needs.

"We saw the performance and the cost and it was for a fraction of what we were getting from other vendors," Eney said. "Dell was being very aggressive with the cost [of hardware] and in the software engineering side as well. They were not only pricing out the cost of a car, but pricing out the car with all the options as well."

Onboard each of its ships, Carnival set up three Dell PowerEdge R710 servers running VMware's vSphere and Unix, Windows or Linux operating systems all attached to a single Dell EqualLogic PS6000-series iSCSI SAN. Prior to the upgrade, each ship ran between 13 and 22 physical servers, with direct- attached storage in support.


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