by Rebecca Merrett

Harbour ISP switches to flash storage

Oct 22, 20134 mins
Data CenterVirtualization

With Harbour IT’s Internet and phone division, Harbour ISP, constantly battling to quickly scale its infrastructure to meet its data demands, the company decided to take action and move from disk-based SANs to flash array.

Harbour ISP turned to Pure Storage’s FlashArray FA-420 system to improve performance and reliability, as well as to increase agility. The storage system was installed around April this year, with the total cost of implementation being about $250,000. It supports nearly all of Harbour ISP’s business, including its internal SQL databases, email, Citrix applications, Dynamics, and Scala ERP system.

Harbour IT’s founding director, Charles Tym, said one of the biggest issues with traditional disk-based SANs is the IO throughput is constrained, no matter who the vendor is.

“You basically have got incredibly dense applications coming out of these virtualized environments and you have got all these physical spindles trying to serve all of these diverse requests for IO,” he said.

“You may have a mechanical disk SAN that can support 200 terabytes of disk, but the controllers can’t get enough throughput to actually service 200 terabytes of data. They might only be able to service 100 terabytes of data, for example. Then you end up putting in another SAN, even though you have got one that’s only half its capacity because of the IO bottle neck.

“Those are the kind of issues that all cloud providers are dealing with [when it comes to] mechanical disk. The disk may have a very large capacity, but to get decent response times you have to limit the amount of disk that you can actually use in your environment and that wastes money because you have all these shelves that aren’t fully populated.”

Tym said he was able to compress 7 terabytes of data within the Harbour ISP business systems down to 700 gigabytes using the flash array.

Harbour ISP was also able to save power and rack space in its data centre. Harbour IT’s national cloud services manager, Adam Simpson, said he could store about 100 terabytes of data into about 8 rack units of space, with the flash array only using a fraction of the power of traditional disk-based SANs.

Tym said the biggest cost for the business is on data centre space and power, and expects that the new storage system will result in opex savings of $250,000 over two years. “That’s two racks, $3500 per month per rack, that eventually we won’t have to fund,” Tym said.

The company has also been able to reduce SQL startup time from 30 seconds down to three seconds. “At the end of the month we do a lot of bill processing, analysing people’s usage patterns and those types of things. We run some fairly large sequel databases on that environment as well. It chopped hours off our reporting process, which means the quicker we get that stuff done, the quicker we get our build out,” said Simpson.

Harbour ISP was also able to fully install the Flash Array and have it up and running in a few hours, according to Tym. This is compared to when the company did a major upgrade of its legacy SAN environment early last year which took several months, he said.

“It was directly compatible with our Cisco UCS platform; we didn’t have to get any special drivers – it just plugged in and worked.

“We can be more responsive. It’s going to be so much quicker to deploy the Flash than having to build and connect up all these mechanical disks, format them and put them in the racks, connect them into the UCS. It’s really going to make a very big difference to how fast we can add new customers. We know we will get a very consistent performance out of our storage going forward.”

Another benefit to using the storage system, according to Simpson, is access to a real time performance monitoring tool through Pure Storage’s online support portal.

“The other functions they have that the other providers don’t seem to have is remote desktop support where once you are logged on to the portal you can actually hand control of your SAN across to the engineers in the US and they can do any remote patching, assist with diagnosis and those type of things,” Simpson said.

The storage revamp let Harbour IT develop a premium cloud product called Pure Cloud for businesses which is being launched today, coinciding with Pure Storage’s official launch of its Australia and New Zealand office launch today.

Follow Rebecca Merrett on Twitter: @Rebecca_Merrett

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