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Pivot3 vSTAC HCI helps Charleston airport IT fly

The Charleston airport IT team expanded its Pivot3 implementation from video surveillance to its main infrastructure stack after deciding hyper-convergence was the way to go.

As part of a $200 million terminal redevelopment program, Charleston International Airport standardized its IT architecture on hyper-converged infrastructure.

The South Carolina airport installed Pivot3 vSTAC hyper-converged appliances during its move to bring its main IT infrastructure in-house, while upgrading and standardizing its security applications. The improvements followed a 70% increase in air traffic since 2010.

Ira Campbell, director of IT and security at Charleston International Airport, said after using integrators, the airport decided to bring IT in-house because of its compliance and regulation requirements.

"We control our own destiny and our own direction now," he said. "My goal was to standardize across the board with one solution. In this case, it was Pivot3."

Before installing Pivot3 vSTAC hyper-converged appliances in July 2017, the airport had no dedicated external storage for business apps and "a mixed bag" of servers, Campbell said.

The Charleston airport did have Pivot3 storage for video surveillance systems, so the IT team looked at Pivot3, along with hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) options from Dell EMC and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). Pivot3 vSTAC appliances proved the least expensive and met all of the airport's requirements, according to Campbell and the airport's COO, James Peacher.

Ira Campbell, director of IT and security, Charleston International AirportIra Campbell

"Dell and HPE may have been able to meet our requirements, but their cost was probably double [that of Pivot3]. Being a small airport, we had to look at the cost, as well as the solution," Peacher said.

Campbell said more than cost went into the decision.

"We always seemed to come back to Pivot3 because of the level of service, the quality of the hardware and its hyper-converged technology," Campbell added. "It was much more cost-effective for us, but also gave us the resiliency we needed to put our security systems on."

In the first phase of the Pivot3 vSTAC rollout, the airport installed 13 HCI systems running VMware virtual machines. Those appliances run all of the airport's security systems, including access control, video surveillance and flight information display server infrastructure.

The next phase will expand the Pivot3 HCI footprint. Campbell said the airport will use Pivot3 vSTAC to host the virtual desktop infrastructure it will install, and it will move more business applications onto the HCI appliances for fault tolerance and high availability.

"Over the next year, we intend to move all of our critical IT functions to the Pivot3 platform," Campbell said.

We've used Pivot3 for video since 2014. We had plenty of time to test it and operate it, with a lack of problems.
Ira Campbelldirector of IT and security, Charleston International Airport

Pivot3 vSTAC appliances will also host the Charleston airport's common use service platform, which allows any airline at the airport to use any counter or ticket gate. The airport is planning a pilot program with Pivot3 and VMware. "We want to keep everything standardized, so we can manage it all from one platform and one location," Campbell said. That will require adding more HCI nodes, he said.

The Charleston airport protects everything on the Pivot3 vSTAC appliances with Veeam Software's Backup and Replication software. Campbell said he uses Veeam to replicate data between nodes in two locations at the airport, while also moving backup data off site to a cloud provider.

Campbell said support and staffing issues also played a role in the Charleston airport's move to HCI. "It's a one-stop shop for support," he said. "With three-tier infrastructure, sometimes it's all the same support group, but sometimes it's not."

"Cost certainly played a part," he continued. "We've used Pivot3 for video since 2014. We had plenty of time to test it and operate it, with a lack of problems. And you don't have to have that specialized personnel to manage the SAN and the compute separately. We like that it's all in one, all one vendor. It doesn't matter if it's a compute problem or a storage problem; it's one stop for us to get support."

He said the Charleston airport still has specialized server and network administrators, but appreciates that it does not require specialists to manage Pivot3 vSTAC appliances. "Just because anyone can use it doesn't mean we allow it," Campbell said. "We do have advanced technicians. But the ease of use allows anyone to be able to function and perform any duties if they have to."

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