Amerijet makes performance fly with Compellent Data Progression tiers

Automated tiering is key for solid-state storage, but Amerijet cites performance improvement using Compellent Data Progression software without flash.

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Compellent received a lot of praise for its Data Progression automated tiering software a few years ago when solid-state drives began showing up in enterprise storage. Dell Inc. executives mentioned that feature prominently when Dell acquired Compellent in early 2011.

But Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based cargo shipping company Amerijet International finds Compellent Data Progression and its Fast Track feature valuable even without any flash technology. Jennifer Torlone, Amerijet's senior director of technology and information services, said solid-state drives (SSDs) won't help her company, but storage tiering is a key feature for its Fibre Channel SAN.

Amerijet currently has a Compellent SC8000 system with approximately 125 TB of raw capacity and an older Compellent SC30 at its disaster recovery site.

"Solid-state is wonderful and has incredible performance when you read a lot of data," Torlone said. "But we write a lot -- one application is changing at a rate of 500 GB to 700 GB a day -- and we found in testing that solid-state doesn't give us better performance, so we applied faster spinning disks, more spindles and Fast Track technology to get the performance we want from hard drives."

Torlone said Fast Track was one of the main reasons she chose Compellent. Fast Track places the most frequently accessed data on the outer edge of a drive for fastest access.

With Compellent Data Progression and Fast Track, Torlone said, "you build your replay schedules and Compellent will progress data up and down, depending on how different files are used. Not only does it move data up and down the array, but also in and out to each platter."

Amerijet has three storage tiers based on the rotation speed of SAS drives. Tier one is 15,000 rpm, tier two is 10,000 rpm and tier three is 7,200 rpm drives. Torlone said the least-expensive 7,200 rpm drives make up the largest tier. "We can have a lot of less-expensive storage to optimize the cost," she said.

Torlone said she plans to add two more storage tiers: one would be DRAM on servers that Compellent software would read as tier zero for its fastest storage, and the cloud would serve as tier five. "Dell is working on its Fluid Architecture to put Compellent in the cloud for the oldest data that requires the slowest access," she said. "We would put incremental changes in the cloud."

Amerijet switched from IBM storage to Compellent in 2011 as part of a move to a new data center built on Dell and VMware technology. Torlone said Fast Track was important to Amerijet because the company was moving its legacy cargo system from green-screen applications based on Cobalt programming and an IBM DB2 database to applications based on Microsoft .NET and SQL.

"Fast Track allowed .NET and SQL programs to behave in a quick manner, typical to what our users expect from green-screen programs," Torlone said.

Amerijet uses Dell's AppAssure backup software for disk-to-disk-to-cloud backup. Data goes from Compellent to a Dell EqualLogic iSCSI SAN, and then to a private cloud. Amerijet also uses EqualLogic as storage for its video cameras.

Torlone said she has a knack for finding Dell's next acquisition targets before Dell does. "I was looking at AppAssure software before Dell bought it," she said. "I like AppAssure because it allows us to back up to the cloud. Then I was talking to SonicWall, and all of a sudden Dell bought it. I was evaluating Wyse for VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure] when Dell announced it bought Wyse, and we also looked at Quest Software."

Heavily invested in Dell technology, Torlone said she follows the company's plans to go private and thinks founder Michael Dell is doing the right thing.

"I understand exactly why Dell is going private," she said. "Who wouldn't want to be able to invest profits the way they want to in research and development and move toward consumerization of IT in a way that shareholders won't be as favorable with?

"I think Michael Dell is very brave," Torlone said. "It's his company, and I'm happy that he wants to take it in the direction more toward services, the enterprise and the data center. With the recent acquisitions that he made, you can see him steering the organization that way."

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