Solutions

  • Primary production server – DataON HCI-108 with Intel® NVMe flash storage
  • High-capacity scale-out storage – DataON HCI-668 with Intel® NVMe flash storage and high-capacity JBOD with Western Digital HDDs
  • VDI solution – DataON HCI-216 with Intel® NVMe flash storage and Microsoft Remote Desktop Service
  • Azure Stack HCI
  • Windows Admin Center and DataON MUST
  • Virtual desktop infrastructure
  • SQL Server
  • General enterprise applications
  • Custom applications

Industry

  • Professional Services

Org Size

  • 201 to 500 employees

Country

  • United States

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The Challenge

  • Refresh legacy DataON CiB primary production server and increase performance
  • Expand converged storage at the petabyte level to meet exploding data demands
  • Find a solution to run VDI to support employees working from home due to COVID-19

The Solution

  • Primary Production Server —DataON HCI-108 solution for Azure Stack HCI with Intel® NVMe flash storage
  • High Capacity Scale-Out Storage — DataON HCI-668 storage solution for Azure Stack HCI with all Intel® NVMe flash drives, plus high-capacity JBODs with Western Digital HDDs
  • VDI Solution — DataON HCI-216 solution for Azure Stack HCI and VDI with all Intel® NVMe flash storage and Microsoft Remote Desktop Services
  • Windows Admin Center and DataON MUST
  • Mellanox Spectrum switches

The Result

  • Increased primary production server performance
  • Expanded converged storage at the petabyte level with the ability to scale-up and scale-out as data demands increase
  • Implemented VDI solution, enabling employees to access software and data from remote locations and can quickly deploy hundreds of remote desktops at scale within thirty minutes
  • Saved money with VDI and eliminated the need to purchase additional desktop workstations and laptops for remote employees.
  • Reduced data analysis turnaround time and cost

Automated Road & Pavement Surveyor Implements Azure Stack HCI for VDI

Pathway Services improves performance, expands archive storage capacity, and implements VDI with DataON


Company

Pathway Services, Inc. provides equipment sales and contract services for automated road and pavement condition surveys, asset inventory, and LiDAR data collection services to transportation agencies around the globe. It has the largest fleet of full-service data collection vehicles of its kind in the United States. These vehicles collect road and pavement condition and asset inventory data to help transportation agencies make the best roadway maintenance decisions. Pathway Services employs over 200 people and is headquartered in Tulsa, OK with satellite offices in Central America.

IT Challenge: Refresh Microsoft software-defined infrastructure, improve work productivity, increase storage capacity, and utilize virtual desktop infrastructure

Pathway Services collects a large amount of road and pavement condition, and asset inventory data from its large fleet of data collection vehicles. All the collected data is sent for analysis and archived, with each new project requiring more high capacity storage. Pathway Services needed to refresh and expand its Microsoft-based converged storage architecture to meet its exploding data demands.

In addition, Pathway Services needed to increase primary production server performance to meet an unpredictable challenge caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. With many employees now working outside the office, the company looked to deploy a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to provide access to applications and data for its remote employees.

The Solution: DataON solutions for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI and Microsoft Remote Desktop Service

DataON had already helped Pathway Services consolidate its infrastructure by replacing its previous three-tier SANs with cost-effective, converged and hyper-converged Microsoft-based solutions. For the company’s new projects, Nate Callison, System Administrator and Data Manager, Pathway Services, once again chose DataON for its expertise in Microsoft software-defined infrastructure and responsive support team.

As a Microsoft shop, Pathway Services had success in past deployments with earlier iterations of Microsoft software-defined technologies and Microsoft Azure Stack HCI was next evolutionary step. Callison chose Azure Stack HCI because it could provide a highly available, highly scalable complete software-defined infrastructure that included virtualization, converged and hyper-converged storage, software-defined networking and Azure Services on Microsoft-validated industry-standard hardware.

Pathway Services chose a three-node DataON HCI-216 hyper-converged solution with all Intel® NVMe flash to power Microsoft Remote Desktops Services (RDS) for VDI and provide remote employees access to applications and data. The DataON solution was not only validated for Azure Stack HCI, but also validated to run VDI.

RDS is built around the Azure Stack HCI operating system and has a highly available and highly scalable architecture. Through Azure Stack HCI, RDS provides unique cloud-based capabilities for protecting VDI workloads and clients, utilizing Azure Update Management for central management and unified security management and advanced threat protection for VDI clients.

Azure Stack HCI and RDS deliver significant performance increases over traditional workstations, running powerful and resource-intensive server-side applications as if they were native. They also help keep company applications and sensitive data safe on centralized servers. Active Directory and Group Polices make it easier to create roles and permissions for files organization-wide so that no unauthorized user can access them.

Pathway Services also needed to refresh the DataON Cluster-in-a-Box (CiB) solution used for its primary production servers. To increase IOPS and performance, Callison chose a two-node DataON HCI-108 hyper-converged solution with all Intel® NVMe flash storage in a slim 1U profile.

For archival storage, Callison selected DataON HCI-668 solutions for Azure Stack HCI that could provide dense converged scale-out storage at the petabyte (PB) level. Each HCI-668 included 2nd Generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors and all Intel® NVMe flash SSDs and for storage, DataON DNS-4760 JBODs with Western Digital Ultrastar® hard drives.

Callison is using Microsoft Windows Admin Center to monitor and manage his Azure Stack HCI cluster. Windows Admin Center simplifies server management from a single, browser-based, graphical user interface and can be used to manage Azure Stack HCI instances from on-premises or in the cloud. It also allows Callison to easily integrate with Azure for monitoring, storage, backup, disaster recovery, and more. In conjunction, Callison is using DataON’s MUST extension for Windows Admin Center which adds unique functionality such as enhanced disk mapping, alert and call-home services, and infrastructure inventory management.

The Results

With Pathway Services’ new primary production cluster and Azure Stack HCI, Callison was able to increase Hyper-V density, efficiency, and performance for its SQL-driven and general enterprise applications. Its new DataON three-cluster archive storage solution gave Callison the petabytes of storage the company needed. And he could affordably and quickly scale-up and scale-out as his data demands increased. Since implementation, Callison’s storage needs have doubled and he plans to purchase additional server nodes and JBODs to meet the demand.

Pathway Services was also able to swiftly deploy a secure, centralized, and highly available VDI infrastructure, which enabled Callison to create a remote desktop template within thirty minutes and deploy at scale to its employees’ laptops and personal computers. Each morning, he can quickly boot up hundreds of virtual desktops at a time.

With RDS, Pathway Services does not need to buy expensive workstations and laptops for its employees who now work remotely as a result of COVID-19, saving the company a sizeable amount of money. Because Callison configured his Azure Stack HCI and RDS solution with all-NVMe flash, he can deliver better application performance on his employees’ virtual desktops.

As a bonus, Pathway Services had been shipping data drives from its US headquarters to its Central American office for data analysis. The new DataON solution now enables its Central American employees to use virtual desktops and access data directly from headquarters in the United States, creating workflow efficiencies and saving on shipping and drive costs. This has considerably reduced processing time from two weeks to two days.

Using Windows Admin Center has simplified management for Callison, enabling him to manage his complete software-defined data center in a centralized location and use its GUI to run PowerShell commands for software-defined storage. This is helpful because it not only saves him time but reduces the learning curve should he need to hire additional IT admins who may not be as familiar with PowerShell.

DataON MUST has given him better visibility of the company’s infrastructure. He can also receive real-time email alerts if there are issues with hardware or cluster heath. Callison plans to use MUST’s new infrastructure inventory management tool that can scan and compare his Microsoft software and DataON hardware against the latest quarterly validated server component image baseline from Microsoft.

“Our Azure Stack HCI infrastructure from DataON has been hassle free to manage and running smoothly without issue,” concluded Callison.

Deployment Tips

“In the beginning, before Windows Admin Center,” Callison said. “Managing Microsoft software-defined storage was difficult. Everything was done with PowerShell commands and I found that I had to brush up on my skills. I recommend that administrators need to know PowerShell.”

“But with the addition of Windows Admin Center,” Callison continued. “It has made it much easier to manage my storage, because I can now run PowerShell commands within the GUI and manage my complete infrastructure in one place. I recommend anyone managing an Azure Stack HCI solution should embrace Windows Admin Center.”