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Jarrett Goetz, senior manager of IT infrastructure at Cambridge, MA-based drug discovery startup Infinity Pharmaceuticals Inc., has no regrets over his decision to forgo conventional wisdom and deploy new storage technology from 3PAR, Fremont, CA. Despite the obvious risks, he positively burbles with enthusiasm, calling his new array "incredible," and the "simplest device I've ever had to manage." He says he gets "superb" support from the company, which is eager to build a customer base.
Infinity bought a 5TB 3PAR InServ 800 Storage Server to house its Oracle 9i databases, as well as business applications such as Documentum and Exchange. Infinity also opted for remote copy and virtual copy options, and is beginning to use Thin Provisioning, 3PAR's on-the-fly capacity allocation option. Goetz expects the system to grow to approximately 30TB.
What makes the 3PAR array so attractive? According to Jesse St. Laurent, director of research and development at Corporate Technologies, Burlington, MA, the VAR that sold Infinity the system, "the secret sauce is a word I hate to use--virtualization." But he adds--"it's virtualization done right, under the covers." 3PAR's virtualization, he says, "frees you from worrying about performance, configuring security, high availability and what LUN you're on."
Furthermore, the array cost $500,000 less than the EMC Symmetrix and Sun-branded Lightning 9900 arrays Goetz was considering, and doesn't require him to hire a storage
Still, Goetz took several steps to insulate himself from potential startup burnout. He went out and talked to other customers, of course, but he also insisted on quarterly meetings to go over 3PAR's financials. He even had the 3PAR team write up a document detailing the migration process away from the 3PAR array to a 9900 series, in the event that things should come to that.
Why so cautious? "If in 2004, they ended up running out of money, and we ended up having to replace the system, this would have been the worst decision I could have made," Goetz says.
As time goes by, it seems less and less likely that will happen. According to Steve Duplessie, senior analyst at the Enterprise Storage Group, other 3PAR customers are equally enthusiastic. "3PAR, if they can keep it up and keep the cash flowing, has a completely legit shot to make it big," he says.
In the end, it came down to a case of risk/benefit analysis. These days, even a worst-case scenario doesn't seem so bad. "Even if I had to throw it away, I'd still have gotten enough value out of it to make the company money."
This was first published in September 2003