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Nottingham Building Society boosts storage and saves power with Nexsan deployment

Building society ditches geriatric IBM storage array to gain reliability, boost capacity by 20 times and make energy savings with Nexsan, but rejects flash storage for spinning disk SAN

Nottingham Building Society has retired an ageing IBM storage array and upgraded to Nexsan storage area network (SAN) hardware with around 20 times the capacity.

The move has allowed it to free up many staff hours previously dedicated to troubleshooting storage and host failures, with storage that occupies half the rack space and uses less power.

The building society has around 700 staff in 67 branches and mostly runs a VMware environment.

The existing IBM DS storage with 3.2TB of capacity was used for file share operations, but was nearly six years old and had reached end-of-life, said distributed technology platform manager Phillip Crocker.

“It wasn’t the most reliable performer towards the end. We would see VMs [virtual machines] suddenly stall and we wouldn’t know why. We needed shot of it before it blew up,” he said.

“We got it when we were much smaller, but the society had doubled in staff and there wasn’t enough capacity to run what we needed,” he added.

The society evaluated the market with the help of reseller Softcat and looked at Dell EMC and HPE storage hardware. Both were rejected on grounds of cost.

“Dell EMC – for a VNX array – was somewhere near double what we eventually paid. Softcat didn’t even tell us what the HPE hardware cost,” said Crocker.

Crocker’s team eventually deployed a dual-controller Nexsan E18P with 21TB of spinning disk serial-attached SCSI drive capacity and 18Gbps Fibre Channel connectivity.

The key benefit, said Crocker, is that the society has gained a huge amount of capacity with jet engine-like reliability.

“It’s quick and reliable, and to fit all this in 2U is pretty damn good,” he said. “The main thing though is peace of mind. We don’t have to be concerned about it like were previously, always worried about the out-of-hours pager going off.”

Did Crocker consider the need for any flash storage?

“We looked at flash but decided we didn’t need it. We’re using Nexsan for a lot of file shares, so the need for flash performance and IOPS [input/output operations per second] isn’t there. We’re not performance-driven, but will look at it again in a couple of years.”

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