Active Active Data Center

Project origins

A producer of machinery and equipment for the transport sector, with offices in two locations at a distance of more than 400 km from one another, asked for assistance in addressing the problem of file sharing. The design office staff was in both centres, working on the same files derived from the AutoCAD software. The file exchange between the centres was carried out using the FTP server under which one file version was first transferred to and downloaded by the second centre and then transferred back in the same way. Due to the large size of the files, this process was very time-consuming and posed the additional challenge of file version management. The analysis of the existing Client’s infrastructure revealed that the difficulties encountered when sharing files were due to its outdated IT infrastructure, which was vulnerable to data security breaches. The Client’s environment consisted of multiple servers from different manufacturers, managed by different incompatible operating systems. The servers were connected by several low-bandwidth switches. The entire infrastructure consisted of single points of failure, increasing the risk of data loss. The AutoCAD files critical to effective company performance (containing prototype machines) were inadequately protected. Once the FTP server was lost, the files – in difficult to define versions – were located on the user’s workstation. What’s more, the IT environment required manual administration through any physical device, which, given the number of available IT staff (two persons), proved to be a tedious task.

Aim of the project

At the consultation stage, the Client decided to upgrade the infrastructure with a view to increasing its security and availability, as well as simplifying the management process. A limited budget and a small number of IT employees with limited knowledge of IT infrastructure was a considerable challenge in delivering the project. At this point, the shortened recording and reading time for changes in AutoCad files were to be recognised as a side effect of the upgrades to the entire environment.


Given the fact that the Client has two facilities at its disposal, we proposed the creation of two twin centres and the construction of highly available environment using the cross-replication mode. Data Center1 provided production data locally, performed a data version operation using snapshots and an additional operation of data replication to Data Center 2, which de facto operates as a backup centre. Data Center 2 functioned identically, preventing any data loss by the Client in the case of a failure of the entire Data Center. The entire infrastructure has been configured to minimise the administrative burden.
Each Data Center consisted of:
  • the server layer with 2 physical servers virtualized using the VMware system, connected to one another and to the array using eight 1 Gb/s Ethernet with the iSCSI protocol. The use of this protocol allows for load distribution over a number of links so that the bandwidth is not a bottleneck.
  •  mass storage layers – based on the Unified NetApp FAS 2620 array. Each array provided resources natively: block resources – using the iSCSI protocol and file resources – through the CIFS protocol. The Unified storage array provided high availability (fault tolerance) without the need to create and configure a special file server. While performing this function, the array runs natively and provides full redundancy. The local resources (mainly files from the AutoCAD software) were secured with the snapshots created automatically by the array according to the relevant schedule. This allows for resource versioning. If a file or folder is lost, the user can resort to its previous version, e.g. from an hour ago, depending on the agreed policy. The disk space of the array was divided into 2 areas: the fast part made up of SAS 10000 RPM drives for virtual machines and production data and the capacitive part composed of 7200 RPM drives for file data and replication. All data were accelerated at granural level (in 4KB blocks) through a dedicated 1TB NVMe read cache operating in real time, i.e. when increased performance is needed. Thanks to this solution, all business applications operate at maximum efficiency.
  • the network layer – made up of two Dell N3000 switches, with 1GbE and 10GbE ports. 10GbE ports were used for connecting to the array. To simplify the management of the network infrastructure, the switches were stacked with dedicated ports.


Following the implementation of the two separate twin centres, our Client has obtained a modern and secure IT infrastructure. Each layer (computing, network and data storage) is fully redundant. Each DataCenter protects the data of another DataCenter, which allows one of them to provide a complete range of business services in the event of failure or during a service break. The AutoCAD files, which were the starting point for the project, are now being shared using a higher bandwidth using CIFS. Thanks to the snapshot versioning solution, company staff has an access to the previous version (from a few minutes or an hour ago) of the files which have been removed or incorrectly modified. The entire environment was unified, allowing the staff (provided with brief training) to independently administer the entire infrastructure in a much more time-efficient manner than before.

Technology used

  • NetApp FAS 2620 arrays
  • Dell N3000 Switch
  • Dell R630 servers
  • VMware Essential Plus virtualization solution