Valtus Grows with ONStor

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When Canadian-based Valtus Imagery Services, a high-volume distributor of digital orthophotography, expanded operations in the U.S., the company knew it would need to expand storage too. That’s when the company decided to broaden its partnership with ONStor.

Part of the North West Group based in Calgary, Alberta, Valtus’ business customers were mostly small oil and gas industry companies. Data stores were growing at about 2 terabytes to 4 terabytes per year. Then Valtus opened shop in Boulder, Colorado, and began targeting larger enterprise customers.

“We’re now seeing a demand for larger content storage, and expect to add 250 terabytes in the next year alone,” says John Welter, vice president of technology at Valtus.

Today, the U.S.-based operations use ONStor Pantera Clustered NAS as the primary storage environment for the company’s library of aerial and satellite imagery.

Providing access to geospatial data for the oil and gas industry since 1995 in Alberta, northeast British Columbia and southern Saskatchewan, Valtus more recently added complete coverage for the U.S. states of Montana, North Dakota and Utah, with data for California and Texas to follow.

As a high-volume, high-speed distributor of orthophotography, the company stores large mosaic datasets in its servers that are used to create images customized by area, resolution and coordinate systems.

Rising Demand

While Valtus didn’t know exactly what to anticipate for storage volumes at its Boulder location, the company did expect healthy content growth, according to Kenyon Waugh, chief strategy officer at Valtus. Plus, the company was adding stereo imaging, or digital elevation models used for mapping.

When considering its storage system requirements, Valtus wanted to meet the following criteria, according to Welter:

  • The system must allow for seamless, non-disruptive growth.
  • It must offer the flexibility to choose among vendors for disk arrays.
  • It must be a clustered solution for redundancy and to scale bandwidth as required.
  • It must offer efficiency.

“One of the most important criteria for storage was that it provided 24/7 access to end users,” he says. Seamless growth, he notes, means that the company can’t have downtime or do forklift upgrades to its storage system.

“We also don’t want to be locked into any particular vendor for buying disk arrays,” says Welter, noting that the company was interested in an open solution.

A clustered solution would not only allow the company to grow as needed, but also accommodated the limited power and rack space available at the collocation facility where Valtus houses its equipment.

About two and a half years ago, North West, Valtus’ parent company, then a Network Appliance user, began looking for a new storage solution. The company looked at systems from what Welter called “next generation NAS providers,” such as Network Appliance, Isilon, BlueArc and ONStor.

“We brought some of the solutions in-house and did demos,” he says. The company found that ONStor met its criteria.

North West brought in a four-way Bobcat 2280 cluster and eventually moved up to an eight-way Bobcat 2280 cluster with about 360 terabytes of storage for production data.

More recently, Valtus purchased the Pantera Clustered NAS gateways with 50 terabytes of storage, which it expects to grow by 250 terabytes of disk in early 2007. “We’ll handle the installation of the additional disk storage in-house, adding it in 40 terabyte to 50 terabyte chunks,” says Welter, adding that ONStor will also be getting Valtus’ business for its new arrays. Valtus has two IT staffers who maintain and manage the ONStor equipment.

Not only will the ONStor Pantera clustered storage allow for seamless growth by adding gateways, Welter notes that the system cost one-third to one-half that of competing solutions.

“With our NetApp equipment, we always had to do a forklift upgrade when the equipment hit its performance limit,” he says.

Valtus’ IT staffers work with ONStor engineers on an as-needed basis. For example, Valtus brought in ONStor engineers to help with installation of the new Pantera system and training.

New Features

Welter is looking forward to utilizing some of the new features of the ONStor solution this year, which he says will further improve performance and ROI.

For example, he points out that ONStor is adding global namespace functionality, which will allow all virtual servers automatic access to all gateways. “Now, NAS files can’t span multiple gateways at the same time,” he says.

While the company keeps an eye on other storage vendors and new products, Valtus sticks with ONStor because the storage solution provider responds to market changes, says Welter.

“For us, ONStor was a logical way to transition,” he says.

For more storage features, visit Enterprise Storage Forum Special Reports

Lynn Haber
Lynn Haber
Lynn works as an editor-at-large meeting with new and established channel partners in the IT and telecommunications ecosphere. She works to understand what motivates partners, vendors, and distributors as they navigate growth in a dynamic industry. Lynn has worked as a business and technology writer for magazines, journals, and online media, and has authored hundreds of articles on technology, communications, business management, employment and careers, industry, and products.

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