Vecima Networks Ensures Microsoft SQL Server Quadruple Play With DH2i

Pioneering OEM Solutions Provider for CATV, Telco and Hospitality Industries Leverages DxConsole Software to Ensure Failover, High Availability (HA), Ease of Management and Significant ROI

Company Background

Headquartered in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, with its primary facility located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Vecima Networks designs, manufactures and sells products that enable broadband access to cable, wireless and telephony networks. Its hardware products incorporate embedded software developed by Vecima to meet the complex requirements of next-generation, high-speed digital networks. Service providers use Vecima solutions to deliver services to a converging worldwide broadband market, including what are commonly known as “triple play” (voice, video and data) and “quadruple play” (voice, video, data and wireless) services. Its solutions allow service providers to rapidly and cost-effectively bridge the final network segment that connects a system directly to end-users, commonly referred to as “the last mile,” by overcoming the bottleneck resulting from insufficient carrying capacity in legacy last-mile infrastructures.

The Challenge

Vecima is committed to providing its worldwide CATV, Telco and Hospitality customers with the industry’s most advanced and innovative solutions, which enable them to create and maintain competitive differentiation and market leadership. With Vecima, its customers can meet business goals such as cost effectively delivering more HDTV channels, eliminating the need for set-top boxes in each guest room, delivering secure HD content, as well as dramatically reducing capital costs.

Vecima is consequently steadfast in its dedication to extensive R&D that results in pioneering technology, as well as to maintaining a highly trained production team and first-class facility that can customize and deliver client-specific solutions in the quickest turn-around time possible. These industry-defining capabilities enable Vecima to fully meet its customers’ expectations for performance, reliability, delivery and price.

Key to accomplishing these goals is its world-class datacenter. It is responsible for providing the infrastructure and applications that serve as the very backbone of the company’s entire business operations – from the manufacturing of the its broadband cable, broadband wireless, and hospitality networks solutions to the systems responsible for testing and tracking errors, to supporting financial, operations and administrative functions. The datacenter encompasses numerous databases – the largest of which is multi-terabyte and stores all the product development test data. It also includes seven nodes that run a variety of both homegrown (the majority are client/server-based, VB6 transitioning to C#) and off-the-shelf applications (vendor purchased, such as Great Plains Accounting Systems). Its primary platforms are Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2, HP blade servers, and HP EVA4400 storage. The datacenter supports the entire production floor, which could include up to 300 users; as well as operations and administration, which could include up to about 100 users.

Mark Horseman, Technical Supervisor, Software and Database Services, Vecima Networks explained the company’s situation. “We were on an old version of HP PolyServe that was managing our failover. Unfortunately, PolyServe has been end-of-lifed and is no longer supported. The old version of PolyServe that we were running was not compatible with any type of OS upgrade. Consequently, we were somewhat stuck on Windows Server 2003 and couldn’t upgrade to Windows Server 2008. We were even behind on the latest PolyServe version, as we didn’t have the capacity to carry out an upgrade at the time it was available.” He continued, “And, we were trapped on the SQL Server side too, as we didn’t feel that the PolyServe version we were running would be able to adequately update our databases.”

Another challenge Vecima faced with its PolyServe environment was in that its nodes were clustered in pairs, so that one system could failover to another. However, with PolyServe it couldn’t continue down the chain. And, even when a failover completed successfully, it took far too long.

“With PolyServe, if something went down it could take 15 minutes or more before it came back up on another box,” explained Horseman. “We really needed a new product that could come in and facilitate our upgrading both our OS, as well as our database environment.”

Vecima began to explore the available options. One solution Horseman considered was switching to the Enterprise Edition of Microsoft SQL Server, but even for a company the size of Vecima, it just didn’t make sense from a budgetary or ROI standpoint.

The Solution and Results

After careful research and a lengthy proof of concept (POC), Vecima decided to opt for the DH2i software solution, based on its features, functionality and price. More specifically, Vecima was sold on DH2i’s failover capabilities – the Vecima team found high availability (HA) easy to implement with its built-in prioritized and automatic failover. Moreover, by going with DH2i, they would have an easier-to-use solution with greater functionality, and would save well into the six-figure range over going with SQL Server Enterprise Edition.

During the testing period and now after production deployment, Vecima has experienced firsthand how quickly and easily DH2i enables them to organize its SQL databases into virtual hosts, which can be moved around the cluster as required. If a system fails, the virtual host is automatically restarted on another system. To choose the best system, DH2i’s software loads the list of the most eligible systems, while eliminating systems that are unavailable, or lack the necessary CPU capacity to run all of the SQL Server instances. Once the list has been generated, the DH2i software checks the pre-set resource allocations. If no resource allocations have been set, the virtual host is moved to the first eligible system. If however, resource allocations have been set, the DH2i software will heed these rules and will test various combinations, before choosing the best eligible system. These actions take place in minutes, if not seconds, and the failover is completed seamlessly, with virtually zero impact on the users.

Horseman described his experience…

“With DH2i, failover is super easy to set-up and now, we are able to capitalize on the performance across all of our blades – anything can failover to anything.”

“Moreover, for every product that we build we run through a series of comprehensive tests. We are meticulous about quality and making sure we build a quality product. Part of that, is storing a large number of tests results for a long period of time. So we now have what has become a ‘good big data problem’ – where we have terabytes of data consisting of test results that we need to deal with. DH2i’s software together with SQL Server enables us to manage this perfectly.”

“We spent some time kicking the tires, just to see how the systems would fail-across. We had one weekend of fun, where we broke systems to see how it would come back up. It was very interesting to see how we could take a blade out of rotation and how smoothly everything settled out.”

“Since production deployment, we have had a couple ‘hiccups’ on the SQL Server side and DH2i has failed over brilliantly. It has been fantastic to manage – we don’t dread upgrades anymore. We don’t have to worry about the order in which we bring blades back up, like we did before. We can easily define in DH2i’s software what our highest priority systems are and make sure they get priority on a machine when they come back up.”

Vecima plans to leverage DH2i as it continues to add additional databases, update and add to its blades, as well as update its SAN.