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Tintri storage appliance helps law firm improve VDI performance

North Carolina-based law firm WCSR saw improvements in its VDI performance and management after implementing Tintri's VMstore.

At law firm Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice, remote users were often frustrated with latency in the VDI environment, until a year ago, when the firm implemented VMstore, Tintri's storage appliance for VMware environments.

Womble, Carlyl, Sandridge and Rice (WCSR) -- whose main data center is in North Carolina supporting 14 offices across eight states -- implemented VMware View about four years ago as a way to give 1,200 remote employees, vendors and clients access to internal resources. At that time, the firm's VDI data was running on the same back-end infrastructure that the server was running on -- an EMC CLARiiON CX4-480.

"We were having nightly processes running on the server that were impacting the storage in a way that the remote users would see some of that latency," said Tim Washburn, systems engineer at WCSR. The latency, most of which occurred during night hours and stemmed from backup processes, was having a negative impact on the lawyers' work, he said. After two years of using VMware View, Washburn explained, both the firm's VDI and server environments were growing, and WCSR realized that keeping both on the iSCSI-based block storage system it had been using was no longer an option.

After comparing several other products, WCSR purchased one 13.5 TB VMstore T540 Tintri storage appliance to run its then-225 virtual machines, despite the fact that the firm is a self-proclaimed "EMC shop" and was still using its existing CLARiiON for server infrastructure. The VMstore T540 was to be used alongside three Hewlett-Packard DL380 compute servers as well as dedicated network switches to support the VDI environment.

EMC, NetApp and Nimble Storage arrays were among the mix of products considered, but after seeing the Tintri offering at a VMworld conference, WCSR brought only VMstore in-house for a trial, and it won the team over.

Simplicity and ease of management were important to WCSR because the new system was to be managed by VMware administrators rather than a dedicated storage team. "One of their big selling points is the dashboard and how everything is available by just clicking a few buttons," he said. "We can review IOPS usage, latency, throughput, all from that single dashboard, which saves us a ton of time trying to narrow down where the problem is." This capability meant that WCSR no longer had to troubleshoot problems from both the storage system's console and VMware's console, as was required prior to the VMstore implementation.

Washburn said that Tintri's reliability and its quick responses also were big positives in the firm's purchase decision. Washburn also liked the integration with the VMware platform, noting that VMstore pools metrics from vCenter Server.

To determine the VMstore's performance capabilities, the team used Stratusphere FIT, a VDI assessment tool from Liquidware Labs. "[We tested] the Tintri device [to see] how many IOPS we could put up against it, and it was considerably more than what we were currently seeing in our EMC environment," he said, adding that WCSR averages 15 IOPS per VM during normal workloads.

With the VMstore in place, WCSR has seen a noticeable performance improvement, according to Washburn. "I don't worry about performance anymore. I don't go home at night and wonder what kind of latency issues we may be having; I just assume it will be working now," he said.

WCSR might implement more Tintri products in the future, although even after adding 37 virtual machines to their environment, Washburn says the firm's current infrastructure has room for considerable growth.

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