Techs and the City: Sault Ste. Marie Gets a Server and Storage Refresh


Situated on the St. Mary’s River, Sault Ste. Marie is the third largest city in Northern Ontario, after Sudbury and Thunder Bay. From its rich history and quality-of-life benefits, to its growing economy and competitive advantages for businesses, Sault Ste. Marie is a great place to live, learn work and play. In 2011, the City of Sault Ste. Marie adopted a Corporate Strategic plan with the ultimate goal of providing quality and cost effective municipal services. The City’s Information Technology division in particular was charged with implementing several projects, including a document management system, electronic agenda system, data centre server virtualization project and disaster recovery site with business continuity solution.

Faced with an aging server infrastructure, the City’s IT Division, made up of 11 workers, also had limited budget and resources to manage its IT assets, explained Frank Coccimiglio, Manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Information Technology Division. This infrastructure supported the City’s 11 departments spread across the main hub in City Hall, and 20 satellite locations.

“We had new projects coming online such as a new document management system, so we needed new servers that could support it and that could also be virtualized,” Coccimiglio said.

With close to 20 rack-mount servers and minimal space for hardware in its server room, the City knew it needed a solution that would help reduce its hardware footprint, increase IT efficiencies and lower overall costs.

“Limited IT budgets and resources forces us to constantly find better ways of utilizing our time,” Rob Clayton, Systems Administrator for the City, said. “We knew that managing a fleet of servers and being able to upgrade as needed would be easier in a virtualized environment. We also knew we wanted to migrate our older servers to a newer solution.”

The City had worked with CDW Canada in the past and appreciated the personal engagement and local meetings with their team. In addition to having a dedicated field account executive that makes several in-person visits to the City each year, CDW Canada also provided remote service and support. When it was time to upgrade the City’s servers, the team approached CDW Canada for help.

The requirements for a new solution were simple — the City wanted servers that could support applications in a virtualized environment, and wanted storage that could grow quickly and easily with them.

CDW Canada recommended and implemented a SmartStack all-in-one solution featuring Cisco UCS Mini and Nimble Storage. Prior to implementing SmartStack, Clayton said the team was not familiar with the solution.

The Cisco UCS Mini portion of the SmartStack is a 6U rack unit with two blade servers (there is also the capacity to add more physical blades), and the 3U Nimble storage component allows the City to independently and non-disruptively scale storage performance and capacity as needed.

In addition to a smaller footprint — the SmartStack is about a quarter of the size of a standard rack — the IT Division has also realized a significant reduction in power and cooling requirements and costs in the server room, explained Doug Olar, Systems Operations Coordinator for the City.

One other benefit realized early on during the SmartStack implementation was the ability of the CDW Canada team to configure and support the solution remotely.

“Remote access and capability were two of the main reasons we chose SmartStack,” Coccimiglio said. “The implementation went very smoothly. My team handled the physical aspects here, but everything else was done remotely by CDW Canada. Furthermore, if something goes awry in our environment, the CDW Canada Services team has visibility and will notify us.”

The amount of knowledge passed onto the team by CDW Canada was instrumental, Clayton explained: “We were pleased with the amount of knowledge CDW Canada transferred to us on this solution so we could get up and running. We’re in a good place now that if our business needs change and we need to expand our server fleet, we know we can quickly add to the solution. We also like that CDW Canada understands our needs and despite our remote location, we know they’ll always be there for us.”

In the next few years, Coccimiglio says the goal is to run more applications on the SmartStack and have all of the servers running in a virtual, highly available environment that’s run on the single console. The team is also working towards deploying a similar IT set up offsite for disaster recovery purposes, he added.


by Maxine Roy