Freeze.com Warms to Flexible Storage - EnterpriseStorageForum.com

Freeze.com Warms to Flexible Storage

A year ago, fast-growing Freeze.com, a global online media and marketing solutions company, redesigned its storage architecture to meet its growing storage needs and seasonal fluctuations. Today, the company uses a mix of storage solutions from BlueArc, Sun StorageTek and FalconStor Software.

In business since 2000, Freeze.com says its mission is to be on every computer screen in the world. A big part of the company's business is the promotion of screensavers through its Web sites, Freeze.com, ScreenSaver.com, Wallpapers.com and Ringtone.com, as well as thousands of sites throughout the Internet.

"We do a lot of changing within our IT infrastructure on a day-to-day basis, depending on what we're promoting," says Kyle Ohme, director of IT at Freeze.com.

For example, over Halloween, screensaver page hits for one product accounted for about 1.1 million page views per day. On a monthly basis, the company's ScreenSaver.com site gets about 650 million hits. In the last month or so of 2006, the company increased traffic by about 50 percent. Freeze.com expects to increase the storage capacity across its NAS and SAN from 28 terabytes to 100 terabytes by mid-2007.

"We need to be able to shift but grow our resources as needed," says Ohme.

Last November, the company implemented a NAS and Fibre Channel SAN redesign using solutions from BlueArc, StorageTek and FalconStor.

On the Move

Since the company's founding, St. Cloud, Minn.-based Freeze.com has gone through several changes to its storage architecture. The company moved from an EMC Symmetrix to a Xiotech solution to, most recently, a Sun StorageTek Flex 380 SAN, a Titan 2000 NAS from BlueArc, and IPStor Version 4 from FalconStor.

"We were looking at virtualization and utilizing disk space so that it was modular and easy to grow," says Ohme. "We don't want to have to buy 15 servers to address our needs for short periods of time."

The company is also a user of the Data Center Edition of the Ardence Software Streaming Platform to streamline day-to-day operations, maximize deployment of its IBM BladeCenter and support scaling of its IT operations to support growth.

Freeze.com uses a mix of IBM Blade servers: four processor blades to run SQL Server and dual processor blades for application and Web servers, according to Ohme.

"We designed something akin to virtualization using Ardence that basically allows us to scale fast, in about five minutes, when we need to address spikes in usage," says Ohme.

The Ardence software allows the company to reduce failure points in the IT environment, namely the OS and local hard disks on the servers, he says. The Ardence product does this by enabling Freeze.com to re-provision back office blades to the front end Web farm to handle peak load periods.

When Freeze.com set out last year to redesign its storage, the company had several objectives: greater capacity and performance; to be able to recover from errors using snapshot technology and virtualization; and easier use of overall technology, according to Ohme.

"I was looking for a way to better manage storage and IT staff," he says, noting that he also wanted to have more ability to respond to future use.

The company looked at storage products from vendors such as EMC, Xiotech, Sun StorageTek, Hitachi, Network Appliance and IBM. "We also considered iSCSI, but we found that we wouldn't be able to get the Fibre Channel hit performance that we needed," says Ohme.

Working with a VAR, the company researched and met with both BlueArc for NAS and StorageTek and FalconStor for SANs.

Today, Freeze.com utilizes the FalconStor SAN for virtualization of front-end SQL servers to back-end SQL servers within the SAN. The company has seven Microsoft SQL servers, an Exchange server, some file servers and a MySQL server. Ohme notes that the company moves about 350 gigabytes worth of storage back and forth every hour.

The StorageTek Fibre Channel SAN is responsible primarily for eight SQL dual and quad processor servers and messaging services for Exchange. The BlueArc Titan serves the virtualization platform and content to all Web sites, which Ohme says "Is the heart and soul of our IT organization."

"BlueArc can also take care of our servers as one point for disaster recovery," he adds.

BlueArc Gets NAS Nod

At the time Freeze.com was shopping around for its storage solutions, NetApp was being considered along side of BlueArc, but according to Ohme, NetApp's SATA drives couldn't deliver what the company needed.

Freeze.com brought in BlueArc's Titan storage configured with approximately 2.5 terabytes of Fibre Channel storage on 28 drives, and about 32 SATA drives with about 8 terabytes. The company plans an increase to 80 Fibre Channel drives and has ordered an additional five terabytes of storage. The company recently added four Fibre Channel trays, with four drives in each tray.

"We use the Titan storage for virtualization of all images, operating systems and all content for the Web servers," says Ohme, noting that there's no OS or local hard drives on the servers. The Titan also serves as storage for the Ardence Software.

"This configuration allows us a single boot off of the NAS," he says.

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