SAN consolidation the answer for Messages On Hold

Phone marketing company Messages On Hold found that it was more cost-effective to buy a new SAN than fill an old one with new disks, and has added data deduplication and tiering as part of a SAN consolidation project.

Perth’s Messages on Hold is famous for its cheeky marketing. The company provides recorded messages that play when you place someone on hold during a phone conversation, and promotes it through tools like marketeers waving its banners in crowds at sporting events in order to appear on camera.

Last year, the company evolved a new marketing tactic: viral video that inserts anyone’s name into a short film that proclaims them The World’s Greatest Business Mind (we like this one).

For Damien Crocker, the company’s IT manager, this production created an unexpected new challenge.

“Over the years most of our data was the kind of stuff a normal company would have and did not put a massive load on our systems,” which comprised some small arrays dedicated to servers running applications like a mail server, plus a Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) AMS200 array with capacity of two terabytes.

Bur once Messages on Hold started to make viral videos, demand for capacity and speedy data access grew quickly.

“We create and produce everything we do in house and suddenly we had guys doing shoots, all in high definition video, creating huge file sizes way different to anything we had done before.”

“Users were asking for more volume of data,” Crocker says. “In the middle of the day, things would slow down because someone was copying 200G of video data.”

Backup became a problem, too. “We were running out of space on our main SAN and we had to move things around,” he says.

Crocker looked at his current SANs and initially felt that he would put their unused capacity to work by filling spare slots in disk drawers, but was soon offered a quote for a new SAN – an HDS AMS 2100 for about the same price.

“The cost of extra disk would be high for not much return and we were happy with our SAN and the service we get from the company,” making it a simple decision to buy and implement the new hardware instead of persisting with the older device.

Crocker says migration was easy. “We added a few more ports on our fibre switch and things like that,” he says. “Data migration was easier than I thought. It was all fairly seamless over a couple of days. We started on a Saturday and everything was remapped so there was minimal disruption for users.”

“Some UNC paths did not work,” but these issues were quickly and easily corrected. “Most people did not have a clue anything had changed.”

Crocker and his team, however, know there’s a fair bit of new technology in the back office.

The new SAN was accompanied by an upgrade of the company’s Backup Exec software that has seen it adopt data deduplication and tiered storage.

“We have 11 450GB SAS disks in a 2x4+1 RAID 5 configuration with a hot spare,” Crocker says. This tier of storage is used for frequently-used data. A second tier, comprising seven 2TB SATA disks in a 4+2 RAID 6 with a hot spare, will be used for archiving and short-term backups, before a weekly formal backup to tape sees data taken off-site.

As data cascades down the tiers, BackupExec’s data deduplication features are brought into play to preserve capacity.

Messages on Hold is now working to consolidate its SAN fleet, with the SANs serving specific applications to be migrated into the new AMS 2100.

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