A Boston-based advertising agency chose Compellent Technologies' StorageCenter SAN for a VMware disaster recovery project last year rather than upgrade a legacy EMC Clariion array because it found Compellent more cost-effective with better software options.
And after a rocky start, the ad agency staff learned to appreciate Compellent's service team.
"When we first went into production with Compellent, we lost a drive," said Gary Folsom, CIO of Arnold, an advertising agency that also has offices in New York and London. A Compellent services technician that was supposed to show up by 2 p.m. arrived at 5 p.m. without the right part. That part was ordered, but the plane on which it was shipped was delayed.
"Some things aren't within anybody's control, but I paid for a four-hour response and didn't get it," Folsom said. But he said Compellent made up for the gaffe. "They immediately sent a VP to give us a full explanation of why it happened, why it wouldn't happen again, and gave me his direct and home phone numbers." Folsom said Compellent's services engineers sometimes call him or his staff to inform them of a problem before they're even aware of one.
Folsom said the problem with EMC wasn't service but the array's availability. A Clariion CX-400 that was attached to a single database host suffered a controller board failure, and its users were disconnected. "It wasn't a big deal, but it could've been," Folsom said. "The service guys were good, local, and they never had an issue getting parts, but as the 800-pound gorilla and the industry leader forever, their array should've failed over correctly."
However, Arnold didn't set out to replace the aging Clariion array until it began refreshing its disaster recovery plans. The first step in the DR plan was virtualizing some 40 servers on four physical hosts using VMware. According to Folsom, his team had to comply with various regulations, such as SOX dictating that they "needed to be able to recover from disasters faster—not just whole site disasters but single-server failures."
To take advantage of all of VMware's features, Arnold needed a SAN it could attach all of its hosts to. Folsom decided to look at less expensive offerings than Clariion. He evaluated EqualLogic's PS Series SANs and NetApp's midrange product lines, but they did not support an application from the vendor Group Logic that Arnold used to connect Apple Mac computers to Windows file servers.
The Compellent SAN was in production by early 2007, and Arnold has rolled out a second Compellent array at its New York data center for off-site replication. Replication is an optional component of the array software, and while there is a licensing fee, Folsom said it was much cheaper than upgrading the Clariion array for DR purposes. That would have included multiple additional software license fees. Arnold's staff was liked the simple Java-based GUI for the array.
Folsom and Arnold senior systems engineer Chris Elam said the feature they've appreciated most is Compellent's thin provisioning, which lets them run a 50 TB allocation on 34 TB of physical disk.