Skilled Group Creates Always-On IT Infrastructure with Innovative Brocade Network Fabric Design

  • Brocade VCS fabrics link remote data centers to enable a zero-downtime environment, allowing maximum application availability to better serve customers
  • Brocade Gen 5 Fibre Channel fabrics inside each data center provide a resilient, high-performance foundation for a broad array of EMC storage

Skilled Group (ASX: SKE), Australia’s largest provider of workforce solutions, has created an always-on IT infrastructure by deploying an innovative network design using Brocade® Ethernet and Fibre Channel Storage Area Network (SAN) fabrics. The Brocade fabrics enable a zero-downtime environment to support Skilled Group’s mission-critical applications, allowing the company to better serve its customers.

Skilled Group uses Ethernet fabrics based on Brocade VDX® switches and VCS® Fabric technology to connect its primary data center to a secondary site 30 kilometers away. The Brocade VDX switches create a virtualized infrastructure that provides failover and IP replication services to the Brocade Gen 5 Fibre Channel SANs within each location. This approach helps ensure a highly resilient foundation between servers and a broad array of EMC high-end and midrange storage systems.

Skilled Group provides both onshore and offshore total workforce management, flexible labor solutions, and project-based workforce solutions including shut downs, installations, and relocations. The company’ branch network includes more than 80 local and regional offices across Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Malta, and the United Arab Emirates. In all, it employs approximately 50,000 full- and part-time staff in a broad range of fields.

“The success of our business relies on automation, standardization, and centralization of core processes, which requires an agile, zero-downtime IT environment to enable all applications to be always available,” said Pavel Rogik, senior technical analyst at Skilled Group. “To achieve this, we have deployed Brocade Ethernet and SAN fabrics to link our data centers so that they behave as a single entity.”

The Brocade VDX 6740 switches deployed by Skilled Group leverage Brocade VCS Fabric technology and its unique Logical Chassis capability, enabling the company to manage multiple devices spanning both sites as one logical switch through a single IP address.

Skilled Group’s IT staff utilizes the Metro VCS feature of the Brocade VDX 6740 to stretch a VCS fabric across both sites for greater resiliency and application availability. The feature allows interconnects between different locations by forming clusters over long distances (up to 30 kilometers) in order to provide disaster protection/recovery and load balancing.

Skilled Group was able to deploy the Brocade VDX switches across both data centers in just under four hours, instead of the two weeks estimated if it had used competitive solutions.

Inside each data center, the Brocade VDX switches also enable active-active connections between Skilled Group’s SANs, which utilize Brocade Gen 5 Fibre Channel technology. Multiple Brocade 6510 switches provide connectivity between Oracle SPARC servers and a wide range of EMC® storage, including EMC VMAX®, EMC VNX®, EMC VPLEX®, EMC Isilon®, and EMC XtremIO™ systems. Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) is local to each data center and used as a backup path for the EMC VPLEX systems.

In addition, EMC PowerPath® management software monitors the health and status of the storage fabrics and decides when to move data between the Fibre Channel SANs inside each data center, or even between data centers, to maintain application availability.

“Skilled Group is a textbook example of the synergies that can be realized between Brocade fabrics and EMC storage for maintaining maximum application performance and availability,” said Gary Denman, senior director Australia and New Zealand at Brocade. “These innovative deployments demonstrate the power and value of fabrics in delivering automation and simplicity to support highly virtualized environments.”

About Brocade

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