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Law firm makes case for hybrid flash array over all-flash array

Hedrick Gardner ruled all-flash array 'overkill,' and picked hybrid array from Tegile Systems -- but for more than just its performance bump.

Even though flash is a major consideration when buying a storage array, it's far from the only thing to consider -- which a North Carolina law firm recently discovered when searching for a new storage system. The firm's IT team also realized a little flash can go a long way for a lot less money than an all-flash array.

Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo LLP has 150 lawyers in its Charlotte, N.C. headquarters and its offices in Columbia, South Carolina, and Raleigh and Wilmington, N.C. IT manager Jeremy DeHart went looking for a storage upgrade early last year because the firm was outgrowing its Hewlett-Packard LeftHand iSCSI SAN. He didn't like the way the LeftHand scaled, claiming he would have to buy double the storage he needed to add more capacity to his storage area network (SAN).

Hedrick Gardner is heavily virtualized on the server side and is planning a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) implementation, so DeHart decided flash was a good idea for performance. He also decided an all-flash array costs too much.

"All-flash is overkills for us," DeHart said. "Our environment is a lot of emails and file storage, and it's not that great of a performance hit. We use that fast [flash] storage for VDI, but that's still a work in progress."

He considered more than flash performance, though, in his search for a hybrid flash array. He looked at NetApp, Nimble Storage, Tegile Systems and Tintri. He chose Tegile because it supported iSCSI and network-attached storage (NAS) (Tintri is NAS-only and Nimble is iSCSI-only) and cost substantially less than NetApp. Tegile also supports Fibre Channel, although the firm only uses Ethernet connectivity.

Hedrick Gardner last April purchased two Tegile Zebi HA2100 arrays with 9 TB of capacity each, including 600 GB of flash and 48 GB of DRAM. One array is in the Charlotte headquarters and the other is in the Raleigh disaster recovery (DR) site.

DeHart said the Zebi arrays provide more than just a performance bump from flash. He said he gets about 50% data reduction from its primary deduplication and compression, and they are flexible enough to support his VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V, as well as block and file protocols.

The arrays also offer integrated snapshots, and replication enhances data protection. "It lets us take snapshots and turn them into LUNs we can mount," he said. The firm replicates data to its Raleigh site, and then backs up using Veeam software.

Price was also a big consideration. De Hart said each HA2100 cost half as much as the most expensive option he looked at for the same amount of storage. That allowed him to purchase the second array.

"For the same price, we got the exact same unit for our DR site in Raleigh," he said. "If we lose our main site, we can get Raleigh running up to our last backup."

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