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3Par bests HP for consolidation contract

Global research firm replaces HP and IBM arrays with 3Par to centralize data and reduce management complexity.

Research International, a global market research firm, has standardized on 3Par to support a major storage consolidation project it claims has slashed its infrastructure and administration costs by 80%.

London, U.K.-based Research International has offices in 50 countries across the world and, not surprisingly for a research firm, its data growth is never-ending. Two years ago, its infrastructure began to crack under the strain.

"We were having terrible trouble with disk storage that kept running out and backups that would never get finished," said John Wedderburn, technical architect for enterprise infrastructure at Research International. At the same time, the IT department had a new requirement to build a centralized system for collecting its online survey data.

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Previously, each office wrote its research surveys in different formats and the data was stranded on storage in the office where it had been created. In the U.K., the company managed hundreds of different file servers on locally attached Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) storage, and the picture looked the same for each office around the globe -- the only difference being that the supplier was IBM.

To help find a solution, the firm hired CSF Group Plc. (CSF), a storage consultancy in the U.K. CSF brought in 3Par and HP. "It was 3Par InServ versus the HP EVA 5000, and 3Par won for its flexibility and ease of use," according to Wedderburn. "We don't have a large IT team, and certainly no one skilled in SANs … Buying 3Par meant we could eliminate the really large training requirements to deploy the EVA 5000." Wedderburn added that with 90 host ports available on the 3Par InServ, the company gets "all the advantages of a SAN without the complexity."

CSF also helped the company select a standard surveying system that is currently being rolled out across the U.S. All its European offices are up and running on the new system. Research International replaced several HP and IBM arrays and numerous servers with two 3Par InServ arrays, one for the data center in London and the other in Phoenix, which serves the U.S. market.

"The result is considerably less systems to manage," Wedderburn said. There was no data migration involved in moving to the new arrays as the surveys are performed in an ad hoc fashion. Any new survey that's undertaken is written to the standard software and hosted in the U.K., bringing all the survey data into one central location. All the firm's databases, including its Oracle financials, are also sitting on the InServ in London, and it eventually expects its Exchange data to reside here, too.

Wedderburn noted that he is able to expand the 3Par system on the fly using the company's "thin provisioning" feature that treats stored applications, such as databases, as though they have more physical disk storage than they actually do. The idea is to prevent the user from over-provisioning capacity that is not used.

The new architecture has given Research International a 300% increase in data capacity, and an 80% decrease in administration and storage management expenses.

It wasn't all plain sailing though. "Our CIO wanted to know who the hell 3Par was, and we had to spend a lot of time making sure they were a long-term proposition," Wedderburn said. So far, he claims the risk has been worth it.

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