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Firm shifts to Tegile Systems hybrid array for VM storage

Boot storms and doubling storage capacity prompted broadcast services firm Grass Valley to pull the plug on NetApp FlexPod and opt for a Tegile HA2300 hybrid array.

Broadcast technology company Grass Valley this year swapped out its primary NAS, replacing it with a hybrid storage array from Tegile Systems Inc. to subdue virtual machine sprawl, increase storage capacity and reduce its storage expenditure.

Faced with high CPU usage and high latency of Network File System (NFS) data stores, Grass Valley moved its VMware-based primary storage from a NetApp-Cisco FlexPod architecture to a Tegile Systems HA2300 hybrid array with 1.2 TB of raw flash, 16 TB of raw disk capacity and inline data-reduction services. Rather than spending six figures to upgrade storage, Grass Valley paid $68,000 for the Tegile array and $18,000 for an expansion shelf that provides an additional 20 TB of fixed disk and 800 GB of flash.

Grass Valley greatly improved access times and can promote more virtual machines (VMs) without constraining resources since the upgrade, said Tony Combs, the company's solutions architect for storage, virtualization and networking.

Grass Valley, based in Hillsboro, Ore., provides digital and video content management, technical equipment and media production to TV networks for live and in-studio broadcasts. One of its highest-profile customers is the Major League Baseball Network. Almost every business operation at Grass Valley is virtualized with VMware, including service, training, documentation, software-build operations, and quality and testing.

VM growth, VDI overwhelm storage needs

Grass Valley's virtualized infrastructure has been steadily growing in recent years, jumping from 300 VMs deployed in 2013 to more than 500. Grass Valley's data has grown from 6 TB to 12 TB during that time.

The ballooning VMware infrastructure gradually overloaded Grass Valley's FlexPod configuration, which included NetApp storage on a FAS 2240 array with a dual controller, an eight-blade Cisco Unified Computing System. Applications on the FlexPod included VMware's Horizon View to support a virtual desktop infrastructure deployment of 50 machines. End users started to experience slower response times and intermittent access of VMs as the number of VMs grew.

"We started to see noticeable performance issues once we topped 300 VMs. We were seeing VM boot times in the 30- to 50-second range. It started out happening here and there, but then it became a daily occurrence," Combs said.

Before choosing Tegile, Combs considered expanding hard disk drive capacity and adding a second FAS 2240 array to NetApp's Data Ontap cluster, but cost was an impediment. Combs estimated $15,000 to $20,000 would be needed to add hard drives, and more than $100,000 would be required for another NetApp FAS system.

That move would have solved one storage issue, but the arrangement didn't enable flexible scale-out. Combs expected an additional $200,000 would be needed in approximately a year for larger controllers to expand the Data Ontap cluster beyond two arrays.

"That cost was just not feasible for us. There was no way I could go to our management and say, 'Hey, let's spend a few hundred thousand dollars over the next two years for storage.' I knew the first thing they would ask is, 'What's the alternative?'" Combs said.

Sifting through the options

Seeking alternatives, Combs considered EMC storage on VNX arrays, ultimately ruling it out based on price. He toyed with switching to block storage on NetApp E-Series arrays, but ripping out the NFS protocol and replacing it with Fibre Channel fabric was equally unappealing.

"I just needed a solution that was bigger, better, faster and cheaper. I thought, 'How am I going to do that?'" Combs said.

During the course of his search, Combs came across hybrid storage by Tegile Systems and requested a product demonstration. He deployed the Tegile HA2300 array as part of a 30-day proof of concept.

"I proceeded to throw all my VMs on the Tegile array to see if it was just a good sales pitch, or if the performance they talked about was really true. I had 310 VMs on it at the time; now I have 520. It's not a sales pitch, it's the real deal. My processors never run over 10% [utilization], versus the 80% to 90% they were running at, and I have 200 more VMs in service," Combs said.

Grass Valley soon put the Tegile Systems array in production, and now uses the NetApp FAS boxes as a test bed and for storage of video clips.

The HA2300 is a dual-controller system with 24 slots. It includes six 200 GB solid-state drives (SSDs) with enterprise MLC flash and 16 TB of raw disk capacity.

Tegile IntelliFlash boosts cache hits, data deduplication rate

The HA2300 is built on Tegile's IntelliFlash architecture, which caches frequently accessed metadata and application data in DRAM and flash. Nodes are configured in an active-active mode to avoid single point of failure and provide high availability. Grass Valley runs the dual nodes over a 10 Gigabit Ethernet connection supporting NFS.

"Tegile keeps everything in DRAM, so I'm getting a cache hit rate higher than 95%," Combs said. "The Tegile looks at DRAM first, then SSDs for flash cache and then it hits spinning disk. I can boot one VM, a number of VMs or a hundred at a time, all in three to four seconds."

The HA2300 also includes IntelliFlash Data Services of inline data depuplication, inline compression and thin provisioning. Combs said he experiences a 64% deduplication rate, compressing 12 TB of data down to 4.2 TB of capacity on the array.

Second Tegile array coming for DR

Grass Valley is using the Tegile HA2300 array solely for virtualized storage. Up to three 20 TB expansion shelves can be installed for a capacity boost up to 60 TB which, Combs said, "gives us a lot of room to grow." He also plans to purchase a second Tegile array by the end of the year for replication and disaster recovery.

Next Steps

Tegile Systems adds all-flash arrays to storage lineup

Scale-out storage options improve performance, capacity

Dig Deeper on Storage for virtual environments

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