Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB (LKAB) is a world-leading mining company and producer of processed iron ore for steelmaking based in Sweden. The company is a growing supplier of mineral products to numerous industrial sectors across Europe and other international markets including North Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia, and the USA.
LKAB invests in expertise, facilities, R&D, and technology to maximize production and maintain its position as an industry leader. The company’s focus on “Performance in Ironmaking” means they deliver quality products that motivate customers to maintain LKAB as their preferred supplier – even during less favorable times.
Mining is an industry faced with both significant opportunity and challenges. A wide range of factors influence the business including commodity prices, weather, workforce availability, and regulations. In recent times, falling iron ore prices have put pressure on profitability for LKAB.
“LKAB has a mindset that you have to do everything as efficiently as possible. This guides the company’s IT investments and architectures. LKAB has quite high-demands for technology throughout the entire production process.” – Robert Pohjanen, Independent Storage Consultant, IITN
At every point – from exploration and mining, to the refining of raw materials and delivery – LKAB takes advantage of IT innovations to maintain a competitive edge in the market.
Data storage is an area of great importance to the company – and a source of significant cost. LKAB carefully selects the storage platforms in which it invests. The organization is presently on its fourth generation of enterprise storage. Each solution has brought new advances and helped LKAB better meet business objectives. Each however has also had some common limitations.
The company found it a big challenge when disk space ran out in traditional systems. It took a long time to order, receive, and install additional storage.
“In all of these solutions you end up with the same basic problem. You have to oversize according to what you think you will use in a couple of years and this makes the initial investment unnecessarily expensive,” says Pohjanen. “You have to throw away all you have and do a forklift upgrade every time you meet the limitations and end-of-life of the current solution that you have implemented.”
For LKAB this meant that every few years moving large amounts of data to a new storage solution and retiring the older solution – software and hardware.
LKAB generates data across a wide-range of applications including mining apps, transportation data, and general corporate data. LKAB is already experiencing a data deluge from its early Internet of Things (IoT) investments. For example, over 200 geophones in the field collect seismic data – each a couple of hundred GB a year – that helps the company explore and analyze the structure of the earth for new mining deposits. This data and data from throughout LKAB’s operations generated by over 500 servers in the environment is stored and maintained permanently. “We have to keep it forever because the historic data is very valuable in our industry; analyzing it determines where, when, and how we mine,” says Christo er Niemi, IT architect at LKAB.
Because of the value of its data and the long-term retention requirement, LKAB protects the information by backing it up on a frequent basis. Faced with the same challenges in the backup environment as in their primary storage environment, LKAB began looking for a new way to do backup storage.
“We want to scale in a manner that we can calculate. We don’t want to reach end-of-life or get to a point where we can’t upgrade any more on a device, forcing us to change the whole thing and rebuild the infrastructure again,” explains Niemi. “We did some market research and were convinced software-defined storage was the way to go.”
LKAB was introduced to Hedvig by Johan Tungström, CEO of Layer 8 IT- Services, a storage, networking, virtualization and security specialist. The Hedvig Distributed Storage Platform is a highly-scalable software-defined storage solution that takes advantage of LKAB’s Cisco UCS hardware to deliver elastic block, file, and object storage that keeps pace with changing business requirements. Hedvig harnesses the power of distributed systems, the simplicity of cloud, and a complete set of enterprise capabilities, helping LKAB tailor a modern, high-performance, storage system.
“We saw that LKAB was ready to adopt a software approach to storage and identified that Hedvig could deliver a more exible and cost- effective infrastructure. We worked closely with Hedvig to test and implement the solution, and LKAB has not only improved current operations, but is better equipped to manage future growth.” – Johan Tungström, CEO, Layer 8 IT-Services
LKAB now backs up data to the Hedvig Distributed Storage Platform with Veritas NetBackup. A cluster of Cisco UCS servers hosting solid state flash drives and spinning hard drives run the Hedvig software and form a dynamically scalable backup storage system. The Hedvig software presents an NFS-based network share as a large deduplicated backup-to-disk target to all of the NetBackup media servers and clients in the environment.
“The product is easy to use and it can grow with us. We just replace or add servers as we extend capacity and update the system in the future. Hedvig’s approach is more predictable and leverages our investment in Cisco, which means a more predictable cost.” – Christo er Niemi, IT Architect, LKAB
The storage cluster spans servers in two data centers separated by a few kilometers. LKAB has configured the Hedvig software to replicate data between racks in a single data center as well as to a secondary site for disaster recovery protection. The company expects to host more than 500TB of backup data on the platform, and has additional data and application use cases on the roadmap.
“When you start to get large — when you start to use lots of data — the public cloud isn’t that cheap anymore. You lose a lot of things when you don’t control your data. We like to own the data ourselves.” – Christo er Niemi, IT Architect, LKAB
LKAB compared the cost of traditional storage with the software-defined approach and found the software approach to be a lower-cost solution. “It was less expensive and we are not having to throw away the investment in a couple of years to buy a new one,” says Niemi. The company also did calculations on backup to the public cloud and determined the cloud to be a more costly solution.
Benefits of Hedvig Storage Platform
With the Hedvig Distributed Storage Platform, LKAB gains significant business benefits including the following advantages:
- A software-focused approach that makes the storage investment an appreciating asset
- A storage solution that leverages and extends investments in company-standard Cisco USC servers
- The ability to scale storage as data grows without forklift upgrades or long deliver delays
- Built-replication for multi-datacenter and cloud disaster protection and recoverability
- Lower and more predictable costs for data storage hardware, software, and support
- The simplicity of provisioning enterpise-class storage with a few mouse clicks