Faced with the resource drain of managing 20 servers with direct-attached storage, Coffs Harbour City Council on the New South Wales mid-north coast in Australia has consolidated its infrastructure via SAN virtualization.

Andrew Sales, the council's special IT projects manager, said that after seeking bids for an integrated infrastructure solution, $337,000 was spent on new HP Proliant servers and an EVA3000 SAN.

Sales said the benefit of storage virtualization is the "black box" nature, whereby the size of a partition can be allocated across many spindles in the SAN.

"It will level the partition across 30 drives for the RAID level [so] it's just a virtual partition," Sales said, adding if more discs are added the partition will span the entire set.

"With other vendor solutions, you have to stick discs in groups and they will be allocated to a server. This is just a black box."

In addition to reducing the server count by seven, Sales said the main benefit is performance.

"SQL scripts were taking two to three hours to run and now that's less than 10 minutes," he said. "There is a reduction in human support time as we had a lot of processes which we [needed] to serialize but now everything can run together without any conflicts."

Sales said the council has "finally" got its systems to a point where the vendors "can't write software to burn up the resources of the systems."

Coffs council also evaluated offerings from IBM, EMC and Hitachi, but it was HP's service as much as its technology that won the deal.

"None of the other vendors can give you a one-stop shop [and] you never see a rep here; they're not in the country," Sales said.

"HP actually drops in here and visits us every now and then."

The council recently added another 2.5TB of fiber-attached disks to the SAN.

Sales' next special project is to migrate some 500 handsets across 34 locations to the IP network.

With a combination of its own fibre network and carrier service, Sales is in the process of deciding whether to do an in-house solution or have it hosted.

"We've been to IPFX and looked at Mitel's and Cisco's solutions," he said. "Some of the telco solutions [offer] quite a cheap price per handset with no upfront cost. Telstra has just released a true [hosted] VoIP service."

Sales said the advantages of a hosted solution include the ability to connect to a normal PSTN phone, the inclusion of a soft phone, and the freedom to choose the handset type. The project is scheduled for completion by July.