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Housing provider in spat with EMC gets Tintri hybrid flash

Social housing provider Housing & Care 21 lost patience with EMC and signed Tintri hybrid flash with three years’ support for two-thirds of the price

Social housing provider Housing & Care 21 has dumped EMC and deployed Tintri hybrid flash storage arrays, replacing its existing SANs for far less than it would have cost to extend maintenance for another three years with EMC.

Housing & Care 21 – formerly The Royal British Legion Housing Association – manages 19,000 homes in 530 locations. It has more than 1,000 users running apps delivered by VMware (250 virtual machines on 25 physical servers) and Citrix XenDesktop, with a main datacentre at Luton and secondary site in Birmingham.

The care provider had wanted to renew maintenance agreements for three years on its two EMC SANs, but salespeople from the storage giant were less than helpful, said IS technical services manager Ed Newman.

“We had a bit of a falling out with EMC. We came to the end of our three-year maintenance period and tried to get prices for the next three years. EMC would give us a cost for year four but not years five and six, which we needed to plan budgets,” Newman said.

“Our channel partner Kelway extrapolated from past similar situations and gave us an idea of the likely cost, which turned out to be massive. As it turned out the maintenance for three years on the EMCs would have cost £180,000. We got two Tintris and three years’ maintenance for £120,000.”

Newman also felt the EMC arrays had become over-specified for what the association needed, and had become unreliable.

“They were very big, very expensive SANs essentially just providing LUNs for VMware, especially as we were by then doing things like replication in VMware with Zerto. Also, we had a disk drive fail on average once a month,” he said.

Tintri saves time

Newman’s team found the EMC arrays difficult and time-consuming to manage.

He said: “Until you use EMC [management software] Unisphere it’s difficult to get your head around how convoluted it is to do simple things. 

"In Tintri, if we want to provision a LUN, it takes two minutes. In EMC, you go through several different screens; you present the LUN, mount it, accept it back into EMC and so on.”

There have also been improvements in performance, said Newman, not for the user but at the back end where, for example, taking a snapshot of a virtual machine (VM) now takes seconds rather than minutes.

Read more about hybrid flash

“Our backup window used to take from 7pm to 6am with EMC – but now it’s finished by about 2am,” said Newman.

On recommendations from its reseller, Housing & Care 21 deployed two Tintri units, one 80TB T880 at its main Luton datacentre and a 50TB T850 at Birmingham.

Tintri marries low-latency flash with bulk capacity on spinning disk, targeting 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.

Tintri’s key selling point is that its storage is addressable at the level of the VM, and it does away with the traditional unit of storage provisioning, the LUN.


Read more on Flash storage and solid-state drives (SSDs)