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ITA Group turns to Tegile storage to handle expansion

ITA Group cites primary data reduction capabilities as a key factor in picking Tegile storage arrays after it outgrew its EMC VNX system.

With data growth straining its disk capacity, ITA Group last year turned to hybrid block storage from Tegile Systems to minimize its data footprint in VMware View and support a burgeoning Web-hosting business.

The West Des Moines, Iowa-based employee and brands loyalty awards company has installed two Tegile HA2300 hybrid arrays to help it keep pace with its rapid storage growth. The Tegile storage replaced a legacy EMC VNX 5500 array that was approaching end of life.

ITA Group runs approximately 500 virtual machines (VMs) in production and another 200 are planned, said Todd Volz, ITA Group network engineer.

"We run our Windows guest operating system disks on the Tegile storage. That also gives the best bang for our buck as far as deduplication with Windows Server boxes" that support Microsoft SQL Server and Exchange database workloads, Volz said.

ITA Group's storage surges due to VMs, internal Web hosting

One HA2300 Tegile storage appliance runs in the company's main datacenter and replicates data to a second Tegile box housed in a separate facility about 15 miles away.

ITA Group backs up internal company data to a Synology DiskStation NAS with 6 TB drives as a target for Commvault Simpana backup software. The Synology storage includes one controller and one expansion shelf with 90 TB of capacity at each data center.

Each Tegile array includes one expansion shelf for combined raw capacity of 162 TB, giving the company room to grow.

"One of the things that scared us was how fast our storage was increasing," Volz said. "Between 2013 and 2014, it went from 14 TB to 32 TB. In 2015 we expect to need 57.5 TB and by 2016 we think we'll need 103 TB. And that's just for VMware operating system disks." The VMware operating system disks are used for hosting Windows guest VMs.

Guest VMs are not the only driver of ITA Group's growing storage needs. The firm also builds and hosts hundreds of web sites for its clients.

"We're the cloud for some our clients, basically," Volz said.

Tegile inline dedupe reduces data footprint 75%

ITA Group was running out of capacity on its VNX array. The company then approached EMC about adding capacity, and EMC suggested adding 30 TB of storage to be used for offloading VMware system disks for guest operating systems. But Volz said he balked at the price tag of EMC's suggestion.

"EMC wanted to create a new pool for us, which meant we would have needed to buy more flash, more high-performance storage and more load share," he said. "They were coming to us with a cost of $180,000, which seemed like a lot of money just to add new storage."

ITA Group instead used the $180,000 to investigate alternatives to EMC, which included hybrid arrays from Nimble Storage, Tegile and Tintri.

Volz said ITA Group needed to stay with block-level storage to support Microsoft SQL Server and Windows Server 2012 clustering.

All three vendors met ITA Group's performance target of 90,000 IOPS, but Volz said Tegile's inline data deduplication proved to be the clincher.

This is the first year since I got here five years ago that we won't have to buy any primary storage. With Tegile, I don't think we're going to need to add storage for at least two or three years.
Todd Volz, ITA Group network engineer

"The way Tegile built it for us, they estimated a 40% reduction to make sure we had enough space," he said. "Now that we are done moving all our VMs to Tegile storage, we are at a 75% deduplication rate. This is the first year since I got here five years ago that we won't have to buy any primary storage. With Tegile, I don't think we're going to need to add storage for at least two or three years."

He said Tegile came in under budget and has proven to be a versatile storage platform. Soon after installing the Tegile appliances, ITA Group decided to move its 80-seat VMware View 5.3 virtual desktop infrastructure to Tegile's appliances to get a performance bump.

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