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Lab speeds up test app with Kaminario K2 all-flash array

TestAmerica consolidated its IT environment with a Kaminario K2 solid-state flash array that handles the increased IOPS at its corporate data center.

When Nick Mahmood discovered in May that his legacy storage area network (SAN) couldn't supply the necessary IOPS and lower latency required to support his network consolidation project, he turned to a 10 TB Kaminario Inc. K2 all-flash storage array.

Mahmood is the vice president of IT for environmental testing laboratory TestAmerica Laboratories Inc., which analyzes environmental samples and provides analytical reports using its TALS laboratory information management system.

Before the consolidation, synchronizing data across all of TestAmerica's 40 U.S. laboratories using a merge application with Microsoft SQL Server accounted for 30% to 40% of all TALS activity. And when TestAmerica's 2,200 test technicians would enter batch data into the system, report queries sometimes took 20 minutes, far too long for managers looking to produce customer reports.

Mahmood's consolidation project was meant to speed up the TALS procedure by centralizing the test-data processing at the company's Denver, Colo., data center. Another result of centralizing the TALS processing was the simplification of the data backup system. "On any given day, we back up a couple terabytes of data coming in from the labs," he said.

Mahmood considered upgrading TestAmerica's 60 TB Dell Compellent Fibre Channel storage area network (SAN) to increase IOPS and lower the processing latency needed for the centralized system. "More than halfway through the lab centralization, we realized that we needed more capacity, more IOPS and more throughput," he said.

TestAmerica's database administrators estimated they would need 80,000 IOPS to 90,000 IOPS to support the data transfers to and from the corporate data center, as well as the data synchronizations and sharing between labs.

Because Dell resells Kaminario arrays, a Dell representative referred Mahmood to the solid-state drive (SSD) array vendor in May.

After 10 weeks of planning and testing the Kaminario K2, Mahmood was satisfied with the performance and put his first all-flash array into production in August. The only installation glitch came when Kaminario's installation team discovered some database indexes were off, he said. A quick fix got Mahmood the speed he needed.

Mahmood started the K2 in production conservatively. "We were cautious, of course, when we started," he said. "We put one smaller database [on it] and ran it for a couple weeks, and we grew cautiously making sure everything worked. We made backups every night and we are pretty comfortable so far."

Another problem occurred during the summer when the Denver data center lost power, halting the air conditioning. That put the K2 unit "in a spin for a little bit," Mahmood said, and it shut down abruptly instead of allowing the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to shut it down gradually.

Kaminario support responded immediately to get the system running again, Mahmood said. Now the K2 is on a separate UPS with a different configuration to prevent the problem from happening again.

The K2 unit can handle 200,000 IOPS, and TestAmerica processes batch data 50% faster in the Denver data center, Mahmood said. There also has been a 75% improvement in response time for retrieving customer data, he said.

Mahmood has configured his K2 all-flash array and the Dell Compellent SAN as tiers. The K2 handles all database operations, and the Compellent SAN stores test and corporate data for long-term use. He's using about 6.5 TB of his 10 TB K2 unit, and his Compellent SAN is using about 40 TB. He plans to add the company's first disaster recovery site to one of the TestAmerica labs, using a second K2 at the DR site.

"Being early adopters, you are skeptical about getting into a new product," Mahmood said. "But we are pretty happy with what we have seen [with the K2]."

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