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All-flash storage helps credit union speed core banking apps

Violin Memory’s all-flash storage array significantly speeds processing and reduces spending for North Island Credit Union.

North Island Credit Union said it improved sluggish data processing operations by moving its main financial database off of an EMC Clariion Fibre Channel SAN onto an all-flash storage array from startup Violin Memory.

The San Diego, Calif.-based credit union had mixed results with its EMC Clariion CX3-40 running batch processing and batch reports for its main banking application, an Open Solutions financial database supported by two Oracle databases. As the application data grew, Core Network Systems AVP Michael Glogowski said nightly and monthly batch processing jobs sometimes continued into the next business day.

“Once we started to grow, batch processing was a nail-biting experience,” Glogowski said. “Any delay was a concern.”

The IT team decided to add solid-state storage to improve performance. Glogowski said he also chose to add a separate system dedicated to tier one storage instead of adding solid-state drives (SSDs) as a tier to his all-purpose SAN array.

“We were looking for a tier one system that was fully redundant, price compatible, could improve performance and maintain high available uptime,” Glogowski said. “Some storage systems are tier one and you can add slower drives for tier two. When maintenance comes around, they hit you for tier one maintenance for tier two storage. We were looking only for tier one.”

After researching all-flash storage systems, Glogowski’s team thought Violin would meet its performance and price needs and brought in a unit for testing last October. In February, North Island installed two Violin 3200 Memory Arrays with 2.6 TB of usable single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash into production, placing one array in the main data center and the other in a hot site for redundancy. Glogowski said the all-flash storage systems significantly cut nightly batch processing time, removing the need for a third shift to manage storage operations overnight.

Glogowski said the Violin array delivered startling results when the credit union first began testing it.

“It ran so fast that my operations manager thought there was something wrong,” he said. “We had batch jobs that would run for six hours on the old system, and they now run 90 minutes. And one of the things I noticed about the Violin array is that it’s very consistent. If a batch runs 30 minutes today, it will run 30 minutes tomorrow. There’s no deviation.”

Glogowski made sure those numbers stayed consistent for nearly four months before putting North Island’s financial database into production on the array.

We asked for a longer demo period than 30 days,” he said. “I really wanted to validate the system for our core financial database.  If I was going to put my reputation on it, I wanted to make sure it ran well. We also had to validate it with our ATMs, online banking and everything else that goes onto our production system.”

Glogowski said he intends to move his other main applications onto the Violin over the next year. He said the ROI for the Violin arrays is six months. He calculated that hard costs in reduction of staff, overtime, maintenance and application upgrades and soft costs such as faster report processing, power and cooling savings, and reduced CPU processing time would cover the cost of the two systems in half a year.

He said his wish list for future Violin upgrades includes better management tools and built-in replication. “We use Oracle Data Guard for replication, but we’d like to see built-in replication for other applications,” he said.

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