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DR site built with energy efficiency in mind

Rather than replicate between three primary data centers, RightNow Technologies dedicated a site to disaster recovery using energy efficient AMD Opteron-based servers.

RightNow Technologies Inc., a provider of hosted customer relationship management (CRM) software, announced it has built a new energy-efficient data center using servers from Rackable Systems Inc. using low-power chips from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD).

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The Montana-based company sells its CRM software online and hosts the software for 90% of its 1,800 customers. Tremendous growth over the past 10 years signaled the need for a remote backup data center, said Thomas Jinneman, IT director at RightNow.

Previously, the company ensured disaster recovery (DR) by replicating between two primary U.S. data centers using MySQL replication, NFS and Network Appliance Inc.'s (NetApp) SnapMirror software.

The company also has data centers in California, New Jersey and England.

"The problem our disaster recovery plan had run into was that our existing data centers were running low on power and space, so we decided to open a new data center specifically for disaster recovery," Jinneman said. "Our previous disaster recovery plan wasn't adequate for our growth rate -- we've seen 40% to 50% growth in the U.S. and we have a strong European market to support."

The company chose Chicago for the backup location because the location is somewhat centralized, collocating at a facility operated by Savvis Inc., an IT infrastructure services business. The cost of power in Chicago is also about half what it pays for a data center of similar size in California. RightNow pays $30,000 per month for power in California and about half that in Chicago, Jinneman said.

Clean and green servers

For its servers, RightNow selected Rackable Systems Inc.'s DC-powered Scale Out Series servers, built for density with back-to-back mounting. The company also chose Rackable servers over the competition because of perceived benefits, like power efficiency and ease of delivery, Jinneman said.

"We really wanted something clean and green -- well, as green as racks of power-sucking servers can get," Jinneman said. "We had talked with others in the industry and seen several Rackable deployments, so we decided to give them a call … We evaluated them on price and performance and long-term power requirements, and Rackable stood out as a good alternative."

In addition, Rackable offers all of its servers in DC power, which RightNow expects to cut 25% off monthly power costs. That savings was a key factor during its procurement process.

RightNow also chose low-power AMD Opteron processor over Intel-based servers to keep power costs low, and reduce heat and cooling requirements, Jinneman said.

Deploying servers based on DC power does have its pitfalls, Jinneman said. Users thinking of deploying them should work with their data center provider when installing a rack of AC to DC rectifiers, as not all data centers will let you install these, Jinneman said. You may also get a bigger bang for the buck if you feed them three phase 208v power instead of the single phase power that RightNow used, although the company is still happy with the outcome, he said.

Rackable racked and cabled

The ease of delivery and installation turned out to be a huge plus, as well. RightNow was able to order racks and have them delivered already racked and cabled, so the racks were simply wheeled out of the truck and plugged them in. RightNow deployed 100 Rackable Systems rack-mount servers.

In terms of server deployments, RightNow's rollout went very smoothly. RightNow's networking vendor took a bit more time than expected to deliver the network switches, but once those came in, things fell together fairly quickly, Jinneman said.

"We used PXE boot to load the OS on the 100 servers nearly hands free in a matter of a few hours, this definitely set a new record for us," Jinneman said.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Bridget Botelho, News Writer

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