The Dutch government’s data centre in Groningen (ODC-Noord) is setting a standard for government-hosted cloud services. Its combination of OpenStack (managing virtualised machines) and CEPH (handling storage) is attracting more and more central government services. The open source solutions are proving enormously scalable, while keeping costs low.
The data centre began an Openstack and CEPH pilot in early 2014 – finding it the best option among alternatives such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and EMC² VMWare. Requirements included being able to host the software in their own data centre, no IT vendor lock-in and the ability to respond to a wide variety of government tasks.
Fast forward to 2016 – ODC Noord now has 18 central government customers, runs 1500 virtual machines, and manages 12 Petabytes of storage, over 400 nodes. The costs per storage node or per virtual machine in the government data centre are on par with both AWS and VMWare.
Scale services, not costs
Recent customers include the Dutch national archives, which is looking to grow its storage needs to around 100 Petabytes. “When we heard that, we were very glad that we had selected open source”, says Henk Bultje, one of the project managers at ODC Noord, “Open source allows us to scale, while keeping costs manageable.”
Other customers are the tax and custom administration and DUO. The latter is the government organisation responsible for salaries for teachers and educational organisation staff members, financing of school buildings, state examinations and student grants.
Over the past two years, the project team gained extensive experience in migrating virtualised machines from proprietary systems to its OpenStack and CEPH cloud. “We’ve built a migration engine that takes a proprietary virtual machine and translates it to OpenStack. We’ve used this now numerous times – and it works without a hitch”, says Fijtse Vos, OpenStack & CEPH IT architect. “Usually, such migrations cause all kinds of issues, yet now we have neither lost anything nor had any interruptions.” The migration engine works both ways, allowing a government customer to return to the previous solution.
The team of ODC-Noord OpenStack & CEPH engineers are busy helping their colleagues in the other 3 national data centres. They’re also sharing their approach with government colleagues in Austria, Denmark, Italy, Sweden and the Czech Republic, and have organised tours for banks and insurers. By 2018, all four Dutch government data centres will use OpenStack and CEPH, allowing government services to gradually reduce their dependence on proprietary virtualisation solutions, Bultje believes.