Gaming oversight and regulations are similar to those of financial institutions. Both are required to store, maintain and frequently audit all monetary transactions.

The Santa Claran Hotel Casino, a 27,000-square-foot tribally owned casino in Espanola, N.M., is overseen at the federal level by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), at the state level by the New Mexico state compact, at the local level through Tribal Code and finally, through internally developed policies and procedures. Frequently an organization’s storage sub-systems are overlooked or, worse yet, not even considered when planning how to achieve all of these requirements effectively. So how can organizations better leverage this unavoidable infrastructure to maintain stringent regulations but most importantly to provide an intrinsic component to an agile and highly effective business?

 

LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER

The amount of raw data casinos generate today has grown exponentially, with no foreseeable end in sight. This influx of information is being driven by the need to stay competitive through the gathering of statistics from as many sources as possible which is used to build valuable knowledge about guests, the service, the operation as a whole, and ways to make practical improvements. Maintaining this three-way balance of raw storage capacity, acceptable performance levels and affordability has proven extremely challenging. Unified storage also being a core component of an effective virtual server infrastructure means that maintaining the overall health of this environment has become a key information technology priority. Yet most gaming operations do not have the resources or knowledge to routinely maintain their own equipment, monitor and proactively resolve issues, and to make accurate predictions for the growth of their storage needs. This has led to a trend throughout the industry of significantly overprovisioning storage—to “set it and forget it”—for the lifespan of the equipment. Many IT operations significantly overpay upfront for performance or capacity they don’t need, at least not initially—tying up valuable capital that could be invested elsewhere for other, more lucrative and immediate returns.

Until recently, The Santa Claran Hotel Casino had been relying on antiquated direct-attached storage. While the overall aggregate storage in the data center appeared to be quite large, each respective system’s usable space was either overwhelmingly undersized or overwhelmingly oversized. These storage silos slowed the performance of the casino’s mission-critical applications,placed hard limits on their growth potential, and significantly hindered the ability to resolve issues as they were identified.

Even worse, it had become very difficult and time consuming to retrieve data and ensure data availability, a critical requirement if the casino was to stay in business.

 

WHEN THE WORST HAPPENS…

The Santa Claran Hotel Casino faced potential disaster when an unrecoverable and catastrophic RAID failure occurred with the direct-attached disks in a critical casino system. As a result, half of the casino’s gaming systems went down leaving it in the precarious state of no longer having any redundancy, running entirely off a single system and being unable to perform regularly scheduled maintenance procedures. Similar events had previously occurred with individual disks and entire RAID groups having failed in other systems, indicating the hardware was reaching the end of its usable lifespan. 

These failures were occurring, on average, once a quarter with increasing regularity. The Santa Claran Hotel Casino desperately needed a more reliable solution.

 

COMPLETE OVERHAUL

The words “complete overhaul” are scary to IT managers, especially those with limited staff and budgets, and come with an associated high level of risk.

The Santa Claran Hotel Casino chose Nimble Storage’s flash-accelerated hybrid storage array as the centerpiece of a unified virtual server environment. Implementing the Nimble solution was simple, intuitive, was done without the need and expense of external vendors, and did not require any specialized training.

In the year since using the Nimble Storage system the casino has experienced zero failures. Its snapshot capabilities, which take point-in-time copies of data, provide an immediate tier of backup with the comfort of knowing recoveries can be performed near instantaneously. Augmenting and enhancing existing data recovery strategies. The Nimble Storage’s Cloud-based monitoring provides proactive oversight of the health of the storage system and adds operational insight to analyze and predict storage needs with the leeway to properly budget. These features ensure that the requirements of capacity and performance are adequately balanced, that expansions are done as needed and can be made granularly, and that all investments will be maximized.


Jeremy Stephens is the executive director of information technology at Santa Claran Hotel Casino. He can be reached at www.santaclaran.com. For more information on Nimble Storage, visit www.nimblestorage.com.