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HoneyBaked Ham Co. bakes better performance with HP 3PAR storage arrays

The HoneyBaked Ham Co. switched to HP 3PAR storage arrays to deal with spikes that played havoc with storage performance during peak periods.

For The HoneyBaked Ham Co. of Georgia, sales of its food products spike around holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. And as the company processes all those orders, storage demand increases, which can create a headache for the IT team.

Those spikes prompted the company to overhaul its storage system after Easter 2012. HoneyBaked Ham installed a midrange Hewlett-Packard (HP) 3PAR F400 Storage Server array to replace a Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) AMS 200 array and direct-attached storage.

Kevin Madsen, HoneyBaked Ham's IT infrastructure director, said the main challenge was getting its storage performance to scale at peak times. He said the AMS 200, which HDS no longer sells, had "pitiful" reporting capabilities that didn't help, while the 3PAR F400 does a better job of handling dynamic input/output (I/O) operations.

"For two years, the AMS ran very well, but [for] the last two years it was not up to task," Madsen said. "Mainly, it was a reporting problem. We could not make decisions on storage performance. There was no way to get a long-term average, so there was no way to get useful numbers from it."

Madsen said sales order transactions from the company's 300 stores typically increases 10,000 times the normal rate during the week before a holiday. Those orders all go to the corporate offices in Troy, Mich. The company needs a back-end storage system that can be tuned for those dramatic spikes.

Madsen said HoneyBaked Ham looked closely at HP 3PAR storage arrays and Dell Compellent block-based SANs. He used a Microsoft SQL I/O tool to test the performance of both systems in the first quarter during his evaluation.

"They are similar in how data is stored," Madsen said. "HP does it with ASIC and hardware, and Dell does it in software. For scalability and reliability, the hardware is a better choice."

Dell makes its storage optimization decisions based on historical I/O patterns over the previous three weeks, Madsen said. With the 3PAR storage array, he can control storage optimization based on when he knows the company's traffic will rise from a normal day to a peak day. He can segregate traffic to give priority to data coming in from the servers with databases containing point-of-sales and inventory data.

"If it is done based on history, it will do it wrong," he said. "With HP, I have more control over optimizing the storage. I have the ability to manually control the optimization."

HoneyBaked Ham used integrator VeriStor Systems, which is both a Dell and HP partner, for the technology refresh. Steve Bishop, chief technology officer at VeriStor, said his company usually leads with HP 3PAR storage arrays in midrange environments where there are performance-intensive applications.

"Both solutions [Dell Compellent and HP 3PAR] are hardware- and software-based," he said. "HP 3PAR StoreServ is a tier-one enterprise architecture that has been brought to the midrange."

Madsen said HoneyBaked's HP 3PAR is a dual-controller system with 15,000 600 GB Fibre Channel performance drives and 16 drives with 1 terabyte of capacity for a total of 73 TB of raw capacity.

"We implemented it after Easter [2012]," Madsen said. "I've been here 10 years, and the last holiday was the first time we had zero complaints about the performance."

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