SAN for storage consolidation at Spencer's Retail

ERP implementation requirements made Spencer's Retail opt for storage consolidation with a storage area network (SAN). We take a look at the initiative.

Spencer's Retail Ltd., one of India's fastest-growing multi-format retailers with 275 stores in 66 cities, decided to install a storage area network (SAN) to consolidate its data storage for a SAP ERP implementation.

In 2006, Spencer's Retail felt the acute need for a centralized IT system to support its rapid business growth and chose SAP ERP. At the time, the company felt it needed to consolidate storage because the existing storage infrastructure did not support centralized data architecture.

"We had the prime objective that data had to reside in a centralized system. That left us with SAN as the best solution," says Indranil Guha, the head of IT integration for Spencer's Retail.

Cost-effectiveness is key

Spencer's Retail undertook its storage sizing project keeping in mind its data growth of 180 GB per month. Apart from this, the retailer tracked two primary parameters during the SAN evaluations: cost-effectiveness and performance. From the start, it was imperative to go in for a cost-effective solution with good performance. While Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. were each considered as its vendor, Spencer's Retail chose Sun's SAN solution because of its price-performance value.

Spencer's Retail undertook storage sizing keeping in mind its data growth of 180 GB per month. The retailer also tracked cost-effectiveness and performance.

Guha says technology is not the real distinguishing factor amongst these vendors. Rather, factors like support and price are what create the distinction. Solutions from many large IT vendors are in use at Spencer's Retail group companies (RPG Enterprises is its parent company). Since RPG companies function in different vendor environments (such as those of HP, IBM and Sun), Spencer's Retail already knew about the capabilities of these vendors to work in India. Hence, the price factor of Sun's SAN solution set it apart from the rest.

"For every organization, the choice is based mostly on their specific needs. In our case, we got a competitive price from Sun. Since we already knew what the others could offer, we opted for Sun's SAN solution," Guha says.

Commenting on the Indian scenario and what CIOs should look for while deciding on SAN, Guha says, "When going for a SAN deployment, organizations should look for support and then product quality. Price should be the foremost aspect to consider since, technology-wise, all these vendors are quite mature."

Spencer's Retail rolled out SAP in 2006 and rolled out its first Fibre-Channel-based SAN alongside it. The SAN implementation is used for SAP applications (which have an Oracle database as the back end). Raid 0 and RAID 5 have been used to configure the SAN.

Spencer's Retail increased its SAN's capacity by an additional 2.5 terabytes (TB) in May 2009. Presently, it has four SAN storage arrays (Sun StorageTek 3320, 3350, 6540 and 2540 arrays) connected to eight Sun servers. The servers are accessed by nearly 1,000 users. The SAN arrays are colocated at Spencer's Retail data centers in Kolkata and Chennai. Sun handled the implementation directly without any partner intervention.

Perfect fit for its data storage needs

For Spencer's Retail, the SAN implementation has been a need-based decision. Since the SAN has completely met the requirement, Guha and his team say the investment was worthwhile. "We bought storage to manage a certain capacity of data. Since the SAN serves our purpose, we are perfectly satisfied about the investment. That's the biggest benefit for us," Guha says.

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