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Analytics sell Tegile hybrid flash as college replaces iSCSI

Bolton College replaces six-year-old Dell EqualLogic iSCSI block arrays and is won over to Tegile hybrid flash by ease of troubleshooting troublesome VM I/O spike issues

Bolton College has retired its Dell EqualLogic iSCSI block storage arrays and deployed Tegile hybrid flash. Tegile won out largely on the basis of native analytics that allow IT staff to identify the course of storage performance issues.

Bolton College has 12,000 students and 500 staff, with a primary site and four satellite locations.

Core IT functions and applications are 450 VMware virtual desktops, file serving, student storage, some SQL servers, mainly on Microsoft Windows with some Linux. “There’s nothing intensive from a database perspective,” said senior infrastructure engineer Irfan Patail.

The college’s key storage assets had been eight Dell EqualLogic iSCSI arrays but these had come to end-of-life.

According to Patail, it wasn’t that the arrays posed operational limitations but rather lacked supplier support.

“The biggest issue was lack of maintenance from Dell. We had a date fixed in time when there would be no support. We could possibly have continued with them but we had said we would replace them after five or six years.

Several storage array makers’ products were considered but the final contest was between Tegile and Nimble.

The college deployed a Tegile T3630 hybrid flash setup with three expansion shelve, which comprises around 7.5TB of flash drives and 43TB of nearline-SAS spinning disk.

Tegile’s multiprotocol (iSCSI, Fibre Channel and NAS) dual controller hybrid arrays use a combination of Dram cache, MLC and SAS HDDs storage tiers with a ZFS-based operating system adapted by Tegile to provide data deduplication, compression, Raid enhancements and a performance-boosting feature called metadata accelerated storage system (Mass).

Mass allows data, once ingested, to be dealt with via just its metadata headers rather than the full copy, and these are kept in cache or SSD tiers.

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Tegile won out mostly because it offered file access storage with out-of-the-box analytics that allowed Patail to easily troubleshoot troublesome virtual machines (VMs).

“Nimble was predominantly block and we wanted to explore the NFS route,” said Patail. “Performance was similar but NFS gives us metrics we can drill down to using the native Tegile interface. It also integrates with vCenter,” he said.

“Some of that information is like gold, such as being able to identify a rogue VM causing issues. It’s hard in block storage, but not impossible. But this is out-of-the-box,” he added.

Patail said he can find out which VM is causing issues in less than a minute. Common issues include anti-virus processes not completing correctly and Java not closing processes properly, both leading to input/output (I/O) spikes.

“It would previously have taken a long time to figure out issues like this, now we can see straight away. You click on the volume, sort by I/O and there it is,” said Patail.

The college has just the one Tegile cluster deployed. Backup uses Veeam and ArcServe UDP with data targeted a Data Domain box and replicated from the to a duplicate at a second site.

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