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The IT department of Mahoning County, Ohio, was struggling with backups that took all weekend and often took a good part of Monday, and sometimes even Tuesday, as well. The department found a solution by deploying Riverbed Technology’s SteelFusion, which converges server, cache storage, and WAN optimization.

Mahoning County’s IT department serves 20 different offices. As the volume of each office’s data grew, backing it up to a central location became a serious problem that caused terrible application performance when it spilled into the work week.

The department found that adding bandwidth didn’t solve the problem. It had already boosted some sites up to 10-meg connectivity but still suffered from the backup problem. “We needed to come up with new ideas and new ways of delivering a good computing environment, while at the same time covering the issue of data security,” said Mahoning County Auditor Ralph Meacham, who leads the IT department.

Meacham decided to centralize all the county’s data with a SteelFusion core appliance in the county’s data center. And he installed SteelFusion edge appliances at each of its remote sites. The appliances converge server, storage, backup, and networking functions.

SteelFusion sounds a bit like a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) system, which dynamically allocates networking, storage, and compute. But Alison Hubbard, senior director of product marketing at Riverbed, said, “I wouldn’t call it a direct correlation to HCI. It is a convergence that includes WAN optimization; it includes intelligent cache storage; it also includes VMware-based virtualization. A small working set of data is provisioned out to each edge site for users to get the job done, but 100 percent of the data lives in the data center.”

SteelFusion eliminates the need to do any backups at the edge. All backups are done centrally, so the IT staff doesn’t have to backup data over a WAN anymore. “If a site goes down, you would have no data loss,” said Hubbard.

She added that SteelFusion is a unique product. “What’s been challenging is, we’ve done really well with customers, but there isn’t a formal category because we’re doing a new approach to manage remote IT. It’s not apples-to-apples to HCI. If somebody is considering HCI devices for remote offices, they should inquire about SteelFusion.”

Mahoning County

In addition to solving its problem with backups, Mahoning County’s IT team has also been able to upgrade paper-based agencies to digital. And SteelFusion permits an expanded use of data-intensive applications such as geographic information systems (GIS).

Finally, SteelFusion is helping the county save costs. A small edge appliance at each of the remote sites replaces the previous IT infrastructure, which no longer has to be cooled or maintained, for a significant cost savings. The county’s IT staff, which has always been centralized, no longer has to travel to the remote sites to maintain equipment or processes.

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