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Cloud co prefers Tintri hybrid flash to Dell, DotHill and NetApp

Cloud service provider Access Alto struggled with reliable performance in legacy block and file environment, so moved to Tintri hybrid flash with VMware-native file access boxes

VMware and OpenStack cloud service provider Access Alto has moved to hybrid flash storage maker Tintri and Cisco UCS servers in a move that saw it standardise on file access storage for customer cloud in preference to its existing mixed block and file environment of Dell EqualLogic, DotHill and NetApp.

Access Alto is the cloud service provision arm of the Access Group, which has around 200 customers to which it delivers software-as-a-service in areas such as supply chain, HR, ERP, CRM and warehouse management.

It has its main datacentres in the UK around London, with satellite sites in the US, Singapore and Australia.

The existing mixed block and file storage infrastructure of Dell EqualLogic, DotHill and NetApp arrays had arisen through a process of acquisition and had become unwieldy and difficult to manage. Above all, issues running and managing the storage environment had led to difficulties guaranteeing customer SLAs, said Access Alto CTO Daniel Gould.

He said: “We faced a huge overhead in terms of human resources to manage and maintain them. We had a lack of control over performance in a situation where we had no consolidated view across the different environments; we couldn’t guarantee performance to our customers.”

He added: “We still use Dell, DotHill and NetApp, along with HP blades, for our core public and private cloud solutions. The Tintri and Cisco UCS platform is just the next step in a platform evolution. There will always be requirements for the other storage and compute products, but our preference for new public and private cloud is UCS and Tintri where appropriate.”

First of all, the Access Alto IT team opted for Cisco UCS servers over existing HP blades for customer cloud services going forward, because they, “offered more options for configuration management,” said Gould.

When it came to storage, Gould said: “We were looking for the ability to give guaranteed quality of service to customers. On the other platforms performance was unpredictable and the hardware didn’t scale well.”

Gould also took the decision to move from a mixed block and file environment in which arrays had to be configured so that VMware storage requirements were mapped to LUNs. With Tintri, storage is file access, uses NFS, and storage is mapped to VMware datastores.

Read more on Tintri and hybrid flash

“In Tintri we get VMware datastores that grow as needed, with its optimised NFS stack,” said Gould. “We would not have to re-size LUNs if virtual machine storage requirements grew and we would not be susceptible to issues that arise when mapping VMFS to LUNs, such as unused excess capacity, and unexpected file locking.”

Access Alto has deployed five Tintri T800s, two T850s and one T820 in its UK and US datacentres. Total capacity is in the region of 650TB. The Tintri arrays are hybrid flash with a small percentage of solid state drive capacity that acts as cache while the bulk of data is held on SAS spinning disk.

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

Key benefits for Access Alto are the ability to guarantee SLAs for customers as well as a huge cut in time to deploy storage.

Gould said: “With Tintri we know we can put a box in, configure it, power it up and present it to the hosts in one day. With VMware on NetApp FAS, for example, that would be about five days. We’ve  cut deployment times for storage down to about 20% of what they were before.”

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