Tintri VM storage helps firm solve issues caused by admin clashes

Pharma firm Colorcon bought Tintri VM storage at cost of maintenance on its existing arrays and solved performance problems rooted in clashes between DBAs and architecture admins

Pharmaceutical supplies company Colorcon has deployed Tintri VMstore T540 virtualisation-aware storage in a move that saw it add the startup’s hardware for the same cost as renewing maintenance on its existing storage.

The move put an end to issues arising from clashes between storage configuration by DBAs and architecture admins that had led to problems with storage performance.

Colorcon is headquartered in Pennsylvania, US, and has 1,200 users worldwide at 22 locations with key sites at Dartford, UK and Shanghai, China. Key applications in the business are Oracle ERP and financials with Microsoft Office 365 for office productivity. The company runs a VMware environment for server and desktop virtualisation.

Previously. Colorcon used a single array maker’s SAN hardware (which the company declined to name) for all applications and virtualisation software, but had run into issues when database and architecture admins had separately configured the storage, said Paul Newman, manager of global network architecture at Colorcon.

Newman said: “With no dedicated SAN admins, DBAs were cutting up storage for applications and the architecture guys were doing the same for the virtual environment. This led to issues where something somebody did caused a performance issue for someone else, or at least it was perceived that way and it was hard to pinpoint the true cause.”

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To get around this issue, Newman decided to separate storage for VMware and non-VMware environments in the company. His team began evaluating new storage hardware for the VMware environment and eventually settled on Tintri.

Tintri builds hybrid flash/HDD devices that specifically target VMware users. It also uses data deduplication and tiering with flash storage and SATA drives to ensure the vast bulk of I/O hits solid state storage.

The dual controller Tintri VMstore arrays are iSCSI-connected devices that come in a 3U form factor with eight MLC flash drives for performance and SATA drives for bulk storage, with data deduplication and compression between the two.

Tintri specifically targets virtual machine environments. To do this it does away with volumes, LUNs and Raid groups and maps I/O requests directly to the virtual disk. This tight VM integration lets VMstore control I/O performance for each virtual disk.

Colorcon first deployed 14TB in a Tintri T540 at its Dartford site and then added 28TB in two T540s at its Harleyville HQ in the US at a cost of around £50,000 each. The devices are replicated between the sites for disaster recovery purposes.

Colorcon had been running solely what it described as a “traditional SAN” with iSCSI and NFS connectivity and SAS and Fibre Channel disks. That hardware was coming to the end of its maintenance contract and to renew it would have cost as much as the new Tintri hardware, said Newman.

Tintri suited deployment at the company’s Dartford site because that is entirely virtualised, said Newman. “Tintri is built from the ground up for VMware,” he said. “We don’t want to spend time looking at the SAN, load balancing and configuring LUNs.”

He added: “We can go straight to the web interface on Tintri and look at the IOPS and latency for any virtual machine and see what’s struggling or not. Also being able to replicate between Tintri devices is a huge benefit rather than having to do so at the LUN level as you would with EMC or NetApp.”

Newman added: “We have eliminated the need to hire a dedicated SAN admin and eliminated over an hour a week for routine maintenance, including software upgrades and configuring new LUNs.”

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