San Francisco-based I/Pro, which provides traffic and audience statistics for Web sites looking to increase ad revenue, said it has phased out an EMC Symmetrix array and a NetApp 720 filer from its 40 terabyte environment and will end-of-life a NetApp 760 cluster by June. By the early fourth quarter of 2006, a NetApp 880 will also be phased out, according to Christopher Butler, chief technology officer for I/Pro.
"We're in a consolidation mode," Butler said. "We had a very cluttered, heterogeneous environment and are looking forward to managing all our storage in one box."
"It would have been an enormous amount of money to just increase head count," he said. "Never mind upgrading the storage, too."
Butler evaluated moving to newer NetApp products, but said, "Doing what we're trying to do, which is moving data around very quickly, having a bunch of separate NetApp boxes wouldn't be the most efficient way to approach it. We found upgrading NetApp prohibitively expensive."
He also said he "didn't even look at EMC -- we'd had problems with them and our Symmetrix in the past, mostly around their quality of service."
Instead, Pillar, a startup backed by Oracle Corp., stepped in to do what is usually EMC's bread and butter -- implement a tiered storage system.
"We like the fact that we can tier storage not only within the array, but on each disk itself," Butler said, referring to Pillar's much hyped "disk short stroking" feature, which allows users to place more frequently accessed or mission-critical data on the most easily accessible parts of the disks within the array.
Butler said he was aware that EMC's arrays can do tiered storage within an array but said, "Pillar lets us do tiered storage, disk by disk, and do it all on cheap SATA drives."
I/Pro's change of technology is quite a step down in terms of horse power. The company changed its business model from offering managed services to doing more data mining, which Butler said didn't required Tier-1 storage.
In the past, Pillar users have said the price is right and they were delighted with the care and attention they received from the fledgling company, but have reported technical issues with the Axiom system (see Pillar's midrange array gets by on charm, Nov. 21). Unlike those users, one of whom hadn't even gotten the Axiom he purchased into production despite months of reconfiguring, Butler said he had found his Axiom reliable.
"We haven't even had a disk fail yet," he said. "We've made sure to work closely with Pillar on implementation."
Like one of the other early adopters, Swift Trade Inc., Butler is using a Catalyst 6509 director switch from Cisco Systems Inc., but said he hasn't encountered incompatibility between the Cisco LACP (Link Aggregation Control Protocol) iSCSI/Fibre Channel (FC) conversion protocol, as Swift Trade did, because he's only using FC networking.
In recent weeks Pillar has been getting the word out about its product, hyping the news that a newer, smaller version of the Axiom with iSCSI capabilities, the 300, will hit the market in late summer.
"The question remains, can they buy their way into a crowded market?" said Greg Schulz, founder and analyst with the StorageIO Group. "Are their capabilities and price unique enough to garner significant market share growth? And how will they execute on their roadmap?"
EMC and NetApp declined to comment by press time.