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Ministry loses faith in EMC Clariion

Burdened by service fees, Joyce Meyer Ministries dumped its two Clariion arrays and is now praising the joys of self-management with Magnitude arrays from Xiotech.

The members of the Joyce Meyer Ministries have faith in many things: God, charity and human rights, to name a few. But their faith was tested when the IT department felt it was being "nickel and dimed" with service fees by EMC Corp. on the ministry's two Clariion CX400 arrays. A search for salvation led them to Xiotech Corp.'s Magnitude 3D, and with it the freedom to configure their SAN their own way – with no vendor fees.

The St. Louis, Mo.-based ministry is a world-wide organization with offices in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and Australia and is involved in outreach programs all over the world. The ministry also runs a TV show, a radio program and a magazine. Over the past year, the IT department implemented new CRM, accounting and data warehousing applications to accommodate its growing data. But aggregating data on its Clariion turned out to be "far too restrictive," said Sal Cincotta, IT manager at the ministry.

Cincotta said that to allocate more disk space or change RAID configurations, EMC had to come to the ministry and do the work. "What we needed was a partner, not a cost problem. But we were forced into using EMC's support -- at a $100 an hour," he said.

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Waiting for EMC support often delayed other work, while costing the ministry money for services that Cincotta said his IT staff was capable of doing themselves. "We're a mid-sized business, not an enterprise, so we can't afford maintenance fees," said Cincotta. "But EMC kept piling them on. They made us feel like a small fish in their big pond."

The ministry's frustration reached a peak when EMC did a firmware upgrade that actually reduced performance 20%. According to Cincotta, the upgrade introduced a bug that slowed down access to the disks. "EMC pointed the finger back at us, saying 'look at your databases.'" That's not a good answer, Cincotta said. And at that point he went looking for another vendor.

A former Microsoft employee, Cincotta found out about Xiotech through one of Microsoft's testing centers where the Magnitude 3D array was getting positive reviews. The ministry made an initial purchase of 3 terabytes to "kick the tires." Cincotta said he was impressed with the self-management and ease of use, and priced against Clariion, the Magnitude was 5% to 10% less. The ministry soon implemented two Magnitude 3D arrays and have had them up and running for six months.

One technical difference between the Magnitude and the Clariion, said Cincotta, is that with the Clariion, all drives have to be the same make and speed, but Xiotech mixes drives and speeds within the array. "As my data grows, I'm going to need to add faster drives. With a Clariion, I'll need to buy a whole new box to do that."

But the big differentiator for Cincotta is that there are no more service charges with Xiotech. He said that they haven't paid any additional fees other than the initial purchase, and when Xiotech comes in for onsite support, there is no fee.

Cincotta also said that the ministry is saving time by not waiting for the vendor to carve out more disk space. "We do it ourselves. What used to take a week, takes 15 minutes," he said.

But Cincotta did run into some skepticism with upper management about replacing market leader EMC with a new company like Xiotech. Like most upper management, the ministry felt comfortable with a big-name vendor. "Naturally, they wondered how viable Xiotech was. But we twisted their arms a bit and then Xiotech came in and did a great pitch," said Cincotta.

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