Storage requirements rocket for hosting provider

ADS Portal, a managed IT services provider, says its storage needs are going through the roof as customers are reluctant to get rid of data.

Gary Collins, technical director at ADS Portal in London says his storage spending priorities for 2008 will be all about managing the growth of his environment.

ADS Portal provides subscription-based computing and telephony services to financial, property, legal and insurance firms. The company runs Hewlett Packard blade and Proliant servers at two datacentres, one at Brick Lane near the City of London and a secondary site at Milton Keynes 50 miles away which provides disaster recovery capabilities in case of a site-level incident.

The firm's storage assets comprise a total of 14 Tbytes in two SANs at the Brick Lane site – one from Xyratex and one from Dot Hill – and a single Dot Hill SAN at the secondary Milton Keynes site. Two Falconstor IPStor appliances provide storage consolidation and centralised storage management and replicate data from ADS Portal's primary site in London to the site in Milton Keynes. What portion of your overall IT budget is accounted for by storage?

Gary Collins: We don't have an IT budget as such. Unlike most businesses our budgets depend on what our customers require and we charge our costs to them. Having said that, I would estimate our storage budget is 15% to 20% of total IT spending.

Software costs were high last year, with about £200,000 spent on the Falconstor appliances, while we also spent £80,000 to £100,000 on SAN hardware. Next year I think we'll spend about the same on SAN hardware as well as looking at some cheap storage for a virtual tape library project.

How has this changed over recent years, and why?

Collins: Our storage needs are going through the roof. Customers are reluctant to get rid of data for a variety of reasons, including regulatory ones, with many of them subject to FSA rules and Sarbanes-Oxley, and most of them keep data for seven years.

We constantly monitor our storage needs and upgrade and add to it as necessary, according to customer demand. Also we respond to customer demand for things like snapshots and point in time recovery.

In terms of spending, what are your key storage priorities for the coming year?

Collins: Our priorities for the coming year include managing growth, achieving more efficient recovery of data and moving from a situation of only having primary storage to looking at tiering our storage architecture, including the use of some iSCSI NAS boxes.

We back up to tape every night and will be looking to upgrade our tape library to achieve better speed and capacity. At present it is Overland LTO2 but we will want to upgrade to LTO4. We will also look at investing in a virtual tape library early next year … and will add more SAN capacity.

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