Case study

LateRooms overcomes database bottleneck with flash storage strategy

Archana Venkatraman

LateRooms.com, the Manchester-based hotel and accommodation site, has refreshed its datacentre infrastructure with virtualisation, consolidation and flash-based storage architecture to overcome its database bottleneck issues.

As a hotel and accommodation site, LateRooms.com holds customers’ personal information and so robust and secured storage systems are one of its most important IT concerns. 

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But its old datacentre architecture hosted mechanical storage units that were not very responsive to the company’s data requirements as the business expanded.

The company has two in-house datacentres in the Midlands, managed by Xerox Services, and functions as an active-passive IT estate where one datacentre is live and the second is a redundant one ready to take over should the first one fail.

Following the acquisition of LateRooms.com by TUI Travel towards the end of 2006, it has had to grow operations quickly to deal with a new global demand. 

As a result the IT team at LateRooms.com had to review the IT infrastructure, shifting focus from being just a Manchester-based operation to deal with the new challenges global reach had presented. The IT team decided that the company needed an entirely new scalable IT structure.

But it was replacing the mechanical storage infrastructure that was the IT team’s main priority.

“We had about three racks full of traditional storage disks and we thought there might be a better, more sophisticated way to deal with our storage requirements,” says Ryan Offord, Enterprise Data Architect at LateRooms.

“With mechanical storage systems, we did not get the responsiveness our business needed,” he adds. The company then opted to replace its old storage units and deployed flash storage from Fusion-io.

“We wanted to move to a NAND flash-based storage solution and a flash-based datacentre,” Offord says. For a business that deals with vast amounts of data and needs access to this data throughout the day, storing it in memory cards alone was not practical. In addition, for a business dealing in data, Input/Output response has to be really fast.

NAND flash memory is a type of non-volatile storage technology that does not require power to retain data. It helps users reduce the cost per bit and increase maximum chip capacity.

With new flash-based storage systems in place, the IT team stores just 10% of data on the memory cards, while the rest are efficiently stored away and can be accessed easily when required, Offord explains.

With storage tiers, data management is easy for the team. “We don’t have to worry about how we configure our systems,” he adds. 

The company has been using the new storage architecture for about a year and is reaping its benefits.

In November 2012, we started revamping our datacentres with virtualisation and improvements in network infrastructure

Deploying flash storage provided the business with scalability, reduced latency and faster response times from its IT systems. Such IT efficiency meant that its customers could continue to see the same level of service from the company without being impacted by its quick growth.

Refreshing overall datacentre architecture

But it wasn’t without due diligence from the IT team. LateRooms.com would not have been able to yield all the benefits of its new storage architecture if the rest of its datacentre was running on legacy IT. 

So, before deploying flash storage, Offord and his team decided to virtualise the servers and improve the network infrastructure in its datacentres.

“In November 2012, we started revamping our datacentres with virtualisation and improvements in network infrastructure,” Offord says. 

After making the datacentre is ready for flash storage arrays, the team embarked on the storage project. After considering several options including virtualising its storage, IT selected Fusion io’s flash-based equipment for its ease of use and potential cost savings. 

“We then deployed the new storage architecture, did a pilot testing and found that the data responsiveness had increased significantly. It then rolled out the new architecture in production,” he says.

But that’s not all. “The overall performance levels of our datacentres were improved and a leaner virtualised IT meant that out power consumption was reduced too,” he adds.

Now with agile and robust datacentres, Offord and his team are focusing on more front-end IT projects. “We are re-releasing our mobile applications for both iOS and Android operating systems and are focusing on further improving user experience on our desktop and mobile apps," he said.

But were there any lessons learnt? “Hindsight is a great gift and we would have done some aspects differently, but overall, we are happy with the datacentre transformation,” Offord says, adding that the company will explore cloud computing services for further IT efficiencies.


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