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CPA firm boosts performance with 'reasonably priced' SSD SAN

The Thomas, Judy & Tucker CPA firm chose StorTrends' SSD array to solve nagging ERP performance issues tied to its backups and snapshot data protection.

After the CPA firm of Thomas, Judy & Tucker virtualized its entire infrastructure with VMware, critical applications slowed to a crawl. Storage was the culprit, necessitating a switch from direct-attached storage (DAS) to a hybrid SAN array with solid-state drives (SSDs).

The DAS hardware configuration did not adequately support Veeam Software's backup software that was installed to protect applications such as the Sage ERP system and Microsoft Exchange.

"We wanted to ensure as little downtime as possible," said Drew Green, director of Information Technology at TJ&T. "We had no centralized storage, so if a physical host went down, it would take down the virtual machines. The question was, 'How do we recover?' Our existing infrastructure was unable to cope with that."

The company, based in Raleigh, N.C., last year purchased StorTrends' 3500i high-performance SSD SAN array to replace the DAS infrastructure that supported its critical applications. The new SAN has four 400 GB SSDs and 12 3 TB nearline SAS drives for 37.6 TB of raw capacity, including 31 TB of usable capacity. The usable flash capacity is 1.1 TB.

TJ&T creates volumes of data that include PDF invoice documents, billing data to the Microsoft Exchange Server for 130 mailboxes, financials and tax return information for clients. Problems occurred when snapshots were taken of the ERP application and users noticed the system slowing down.

"ERP is the most actively used," Drew said. "When snapshots were being taken of the virtual machines, it was causing performance issues. It was no fault of the Veeam software. It was the underlying hardware. Veeam runs on a backup server and connects to a VMware host and backs up to a virtual machine by taking snapshots of the virtual machine.

"When snapshots were done on the ERP, there were performance limitations to the point where I would get several emails saying it was running as slow as dirt."

Drew said the ERP application may have fared better if it resided on a SQL Server database but the Sage system uses a proprietary format that tolerated no slowdown in I/Os.

"The problem was a balance between capacity and speed," Drew said. "The Intel [DAS] system did not have enough physical drive bays for the capacity we required. Six bays were not enough for our requirements so every time snapshots were done, the ERP application would slow down."

Since installing the SSD SAN, Drew said the ERP application has been running as a faster speed and it is more efficient.

"We got the performance and capacity that we needed at a price that was reasonable for us," Drew said.

TJ&T's reseller suggested a Dell EqualLogic or IBM Storwize SSD SAN array. Drew said those systems were too expensive for his budget. "We would have been nickeled and dimed," he said.

He said the StorTrends system's performance was only slightly below the other two, at a much lower price. The only negative Drew saw with StorTrends was that it was that it was not as well-known as IBM and Dell.

"We were wary of using a company that did not have as long a history like a Dell or NetApp," he said.

However, he found a plus side to dealing with smaller vendors.

"We particularly like the support," Drew said. "They came on-site and hand-delivered the unit. It was set up from the get-go. They offered us a 60-day testing phase. We installed it and tested it. If it didn't work, they were going to give us a refund."

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