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Steel company mines value with Scale Computing HC3 cluster

Harrison Steel Castings outgrew its converged system and swapped it out for Scale Computing HC3 hyper-converged infrastructure, which uses open source KVM virtualization.

By installing a converged storage infrastructure, Harrison Steel Castings Co. expected to eliminate single points of failure. Instead, the Indiana-based steel manufacturer had to chase down different vendors for help with troubleshooting hardware and getting version upgrades.

"Because there were several different manufacturers involved in the system, I never knew whom to talk to for support. I still don't," Harrison Steel IT director Shane Rogers said.

He declined to specify the vendor, but Rogers said the converged infrastructure provided sufficient compute and storage capacity. Problems arose on its Windows clusters, with frequent memory leaks.

Earlier this year, the company implemented Scale Computing HyperCore 3 (HC3) hyper-converged infrastructure and started to migrate data off the older converged system.

Rogers said he was introduced to Scale Computing at a trade show and was skeptical at first. Scale Computing is based in Indianapolis, about an hour from his job, so Rogers paid a visit to meet with Scale engineers and support staff.

"Salespeople always tell you everything's going to work perfectly, and then you get into the engineering side of things and realize 'Hey, that's not what the sales guy told me.' But with Scale, I took it and tried to get it to break. I was amazed at how easy it is to set up and manage," Rogers said.

From CI to HCI

Harrison Steel produces highly engineered carbon and steel alloy casting products used in the agriculture, energy, military and mining industries. Two of its largest customers are heavy equipment makers Caterpillar Inc. and Komatsu Ltd. Its three-node hybrid cluster of Scale Computing HC3 provides 9 TB of storage and 120 GB of RAM. The cluster supports web application servers for back-office line-of-business applications.

Harrison Steel IT director Shane RogersShane Rogers

Converged infrastructure is sold by vendors as a package of qualified servers, storage and networking gear. The converged approach is different from hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), which integrates compute, networking, storage and virtualization in a single consolidated appliance.

Rogers also considered Dell EMC and Hewlett Packard Enterprise HCI products before settling on Scale.

Integrating Scale's HCI "wasn't about capacity as much as it was for speed, redundancy and ease of use," Rogers said.

Scaling the Scale cluster

Scale Computing does not support VMware vSphere. The HC3 operating system uses a variant of the Linux-based KVM hypervisor. HC3 is engineered mainly for midsize enterprises.

Rogers said Scale Computing HC3 handles his Windows environment, including access requests to Microsoft SQL Server and Active Directory servers. The HC3 cluster also underpins a new Microsoft SharePoint environment that includes SQL Server on the back end and front end.

Harrison Steel keeps active data on site. The steelmaker has been in business since 1906. Rogers said it runs a separate SAN to store drawings and historical data related to past projects.

The company shipped magnetic tape backups off site until a few years ago, when it started to protect data in Barracuda Networks cloud storage. Rogers said about 26 TB are backed up to the Barracuda cloud.

Rogers said Harrison Steel will enlarge its HCI cluster, adding single clusters to grow.

"We will be growing our Scale cluster. We have old servers that we plan to decommission. We will be bringing in new nodes to the cluster and adding bare metal to our [Microsoft] Hyper-V environment," he said.

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