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Caringo CAStor object storage saves credit union services firm

Credit union services firm turns to Caringo CAStor object storage to store proprietary images that choked its Fibre Channel SAN; finds the best backup was no back up at all.

When credit union services firm Synergent Corp. found its traditional storage-area network (SAN) inadequate for storing and managing its core business data images, it turned to “this object storage thing” and installed Caringo CAStor software to process and protect the information.

Westbrook, Maine-based Synergent’s check cashing service requires it to keep hundreds of millions of images for its credit union customers. Its software stores receipts and check images as proprietary images similar to TIFF files, but network support analyst Trever Jackson said these images choked his EMC Clariion.

“We keep an image of every transaction for seven years for all the credit unions we service,” Jackson said. “When you take money from an ATM machine, everybody takes the receipt and throws it away, but we have to keep the record.”

Jackson said all those images were impossible to protect the traditional way. “It would take us more than three weeks to do one backup,” he said. “By time you’re done, you start again. Basically, we had no backup. The only answer we came up with was ‘Don’t back up.’ So we said ‘Let’s look at this object storage thing.’”

Jackson first looked at EMC Atmos for object storage but said the proprietary financial software Synergent uses couldn’t write to the Atmos APIs. Jackson said he found Caringo while researching object storage and after several years of engaging the company, Synergent purchased Caringo’s CAStor software last year. Synergent has two servers running the CAStor Content File Server (CFS) file system connected to two application servers -- one to store check images and the other for transaction images.

He said it took two weeks to get all his files over to Caringo, and now he replicates images between his main data center in Westbrook to a secondary site approximately 45 miles away in Lewiston.

“Now we point the application at Caringo and it runs off the live server,” Jackson said. “Any time an image gets created, it hits CFS and CFS caches it, journals it and blasts it to Caringo. Caringo makes a copy of it. We keep two copies here and two copies in our DR [disaster recovery] site.”

Jackson said he still uses his EMC Clariion for “everything that runs VMware. We wouldn’t run virtual machines off Caringo, it’s not meant for that.”

But before buying Caringo, he found that Clariion wasn’t meant for objects. He tried using EMC MirrorView to replicate LUNs and make snapshots with EMC SnapView “but because there were so many images throughout the day with copy-on-write, the first write would overload it and break the replication between sites when we tried to make changes. We could keep up locally but we couldn’t keep up on the second site.”

Caringo assigns metadata to each object. It assigns a life point to objects that allows Synergent to set retention, preservation and replication rules so they can’t be deleted. It also uses continuous snapshots through its Timescape feature.

“We use Caringo to not back up,” Jackson said. “Timescape lets you go back three weeks and see an object in case somebody overwrites something.”

Jackson said he also stores materials produced by Synergent’s creative team such as marketing flyers with high-definition images as well as email archived with Symantec Enterprise Vault. “With Caringo, everything’s an object,” he said. “I can also set it up with multi-tenancy, but there’s no need for that yet because it’s all internal files.”

Synergent does back up its more mainstream data, which is connected to virtual machines. It uses Veeam Backup & Replication to back up to EMC Data Domain deduplication targets.

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