Users Take Advantage of Unified Storage


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Unified storage platforms seem to be the in thing these days. EMC, NetApp, Pillar Data Systems, Reldata, Cisco and others have brought such products to market. But how are they doing in the real world?

First State Bank & Trust in Kansas opted for a Pillar Axiom system when faced with a doubling of storage requirements over an 18-month period to a total of 3.8TB.

“We saw value in the concept of unified storage to support our virtualized environment and keep pace with rapid growth,” said Harry M. Wheeler, Jr., senior vice president at First State Bank & Trust. “Moreover, we saw additional value in Pillar’s approach to unified storage, which applied Quality of Service [QoS] capabilities to ensure the highest levels of performance for our most critical applications without having to worry about resource contention. This enabled us to consolidate storage on a single platform while still having plenty of room to scale as needed.”

When Wheeler first joined the bank, the primary source of information resided on a mainframe. Over the years, however, applications spun off to a network environment. File servers became the home of vital banking applications, such as check imaging, remote deposits, customer inquiries and online banking. The bank needed a plan that would enable quick restoration of servers and file data in the event of a disaster. Aside from the need to fortify its disaster recovery (DR) plan, Wheeler also wanted to virtualize 13 servers with the goal of increasing useable capacity and decreasing total cost of ownership.

The financial institution worked closely with Choice Solutions, an Overland Park, Kan.-based technology integrator, to evaluate storage solutions, including those from EMC and others. Wheeler said most of the others favored multiple boxes as opposed to a unified set up. He also liked being able to set priority levels for applications, ease of use and ease of tuning.

“Our network manager, who oversees the SAN, really appreciates the set it and forget it operation of the Axiom,” said Wheeler. “Pillar stood out because its Axiom storage platform was built from the ground up to support a virtualized environment.”

The company purchased a pair of Axioms with 5TB of capacity – it can scale to more than one petabyte if required. The move has also upgraded the DR side. In previous DR testing, it took up to five days to recover all systems as the company needed to complete a laborious restore of all file servers. Now, said Wheeler, thanks to the combination of Citrix XenServer, Pillar Axiom and InMage replication software, he can complete a full recovery test in two hours.

First State Bank is replicating in real-time. With more useable capacity available, the virtualization project is also complete. As a result, it eliminated one and a half racks of equipment from the server room.

“We expect a payback on our Pillar investment within a five-year window,” said Wheeler.

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