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Architecture firm 'upgrades' to VNXe3150 entry-level storage

Architecture firm Kahler Slater switched from EMC CX3-20 midrange FC SAN to VNXe3150 entry-level storage, saving footprint and cost.

A networked storage upgrade doesn't have to involve a bigger, faster system to make it worthwhile.

Wisconsin architectural firm Kahler Slater's latest upgrade involved bringing in smaller and less expensive arrays without giving up the performance it needs to handle large design files.

Kahler Slater, which has about 150 users working in Milwaukee, Madison and Singapore offices, last December switched from an EMC Clariion CX3-20 midrange SAN to a VNXe3150 unified storage model designed for SMBs. Chris Bakke, Kahler Slater's director of IT, characterized the company as a mid-to-large architectural firm but much smaller than many enterprises.

Bakke said he saw the firm's upgrade as a chance to reduce price and footprint. HIs firm downsized from a 40U rack of CX3-20 Fibre Channel arrays to two VNXe unified storage boxes that up a total of 6U of floor space.

"The cost of maintenance of the CX3-20 was big for a small firm," he said. "When we bought it, it was around $400,000 and the software and hardware maintenance was around $25,000 a year. That's a substantial number for a small firm.

"The VNXe boxes came out as we were approaching end of life and capacity on the CX3-20," said Bakke. "We basically paid for one of the VNXe boxes the same as we were paying maintenance on the other device. And I had them up and running within three or four hours, including unboxing and racking."

Bakke, who said he has worked in IT for nearly 20 years, said he had previously paid for midrange SAN arrays because of a lack of good options for entry-level storage systems.  "There's a lot more choices now for the SMB world," he said.

Bakke said he gave up Fibre Channel after switching to the VNXe because his needs are primarily for file storage. Kahler Slater's stores mostly large files used by Autodesk AutoCad and Revit software as well as Adobe Photoshop .PSD files. He said the files average 300 MB and some run into the gigabytes.

"Our storage has never been about SQL or Exchange databases," Bakke said. "It's file storage. That being said, they're big files. The ability to read and write quickly is important to us."

Bakke said his storage capacity grows by about 1.5 TB a year. He has about 5 TB of data on the VNXe out of a total capacity of 20 TB, and estimates the system’s file-level data deduplication has saved him about 1 TB in a year.

Kahler Slater keeps 30 days of snapshots on the Milwaukee array and replicates to an array in Madison for disaster recovery. Bakke said the VNXe’s built-in replication saves him from having to use a third-party application, but his one complaint about the system is lack of a scheduler for replication. He has to run the replication manually every night to keep it from overloading the DS3 connection between his offices.

"If a lot of files are changed, which can happen with us because we have a couple of hundred of gigs worth of files changed at any time, it will replicate during business hours," Bakke said. "There's no way to limit bandwidth utilization on that application, and it would fill my DS3 with its replication, which isn't optimal for us."

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