Provoke have enjoyed rapid growth in recent years, and as a result, have watched our IT infrastructure expand very quickly. Fortunately, we have been able to use the Hyper-V virtualization technology in the Windows Server 2012 operating system to contain server proliferation, especially the burgeoning number of test and development servers needed to create customer solutions. Although using virtual development servers dramatically reduced the number of physical development servers that we had to acquire, it caused our storage to skyrocket because of the need to store hundreds of virtual machine images. By late 2012, we had roughly 30 terabytes of data in our storage infrastructure, which consisted of storage server disk drives. Tired of constantly playing storage catch-up as our growth showed no sign of stopping, Provoke Group IT Manager, Julian Bee, explored the use of StorSimple as a hybrid cloud storage solution. We stepped through the solution with Microsoft for their case study series below.
Fast-Growing IT Provider Reduces Storage Needs by 60 Percent with Hybrid Cloud Storage
StorSimple is a cloud-integrated storage system that consists of an on-premises enterprise SAN that interoperates with Windows Azure to provide a hybrid cloud storage solution for primary storage, archiving, backup, and disaster recovery.
“We already used Windows Azure for development compute resources, but we hadn’t thought about moving storage to the cloud,” Bee says. “We were quite surprised and pleased to hear about StorSimple. It was included with our Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, so it was too good to pass up.”
Provoke acquired one StorSimple unit and set a date for the Microsoft representative to help install it. However, by the time the meeting arrived, Bee and his colleagues had already set up the unit. “The StorSimple solution is unbelievably simple,” Bee says. “You plug it in, and within 10 minutes it’s running on your network.”
Provoke is in the process of migrating all of its storage to the StorSimple solution. It has set up dedicated storage camps within StorSimple for each application—Microsoft SQL Server database software, Hyper-V virtual machines, and file-share servers, for example. This gives the IT staff the ability to monitor the growth and cost of storage for each application.
The StorSimple solution determines where to store data depending on how frequently data is used. StorSimple has a three-tier architecture: solid-state drives, serial-attached SCSI (SAS) drives, and the cloud. Data that is accessed regularly goes on the solid-state drives, for very fast performance. Data that is used less frequently is put on the midrange SAS drives, and data that is almost never used is moved to the cloud. “We love the tiered storage,” Bee says. “Having really fast disks available for data that employees access all the time makes for a responsive computing environment.”
Bee has also been impressed with the solution’s data deduplication and compression capabilities, which dramatically reduce storage needs. He also likes the StorSimple Cloud Snapshot technology, which automatically copies data to the cloud at regularly scheduled increments for backup.
Also, the efficiency with which the StorSimple solution moves data to the cloud is a big business advantage. Because Provoke has employees around the world who are accessing IT services sourced in Wellington, Bee is very concerned about bogging down the company’s Internet bandwidth with backups. “We have very limited downtime windows for backing up files to Windows Azure, but StorSimple takes care of this by auto-tiering data to the Windows Azure cloud.”
By adopting the StorSimple hybrid cloud storage solution from Microsoft, Provoke Solutions was able to avoid a significant outlay on production and disaster recovery storage by greatly reducing its storage needs. It also gained unlimited storage capacity in the cloud, eliminating constant worries about shortfalls.
Reduce Storage Needs by 60 Percent
Provoke realized a significant cost avoidance and dramatically reduced its storage needs by using the StorSimple solution. “We avoided the complexity and cost of new production and disaster recovery storage and backup software by using Microsoft hybrid cloud storage,” Bee says. “By using the deduplication and compression features, we were able to reduce our storage needs by 60 percent. What used to require a terabyte of storage capacity now consumes 400 gigabytes. Instead of spending our precious budget on an expensive SAN, we have more to spend on technologies that enhance customer solutions.”
Though the company is still transitioning storage to StorSimple, Bee expects to see backup management time decrease, too. “Whereas we previously spent time managing our old backup processes, we spend no time managing the StorSimple solution,” Bee says. “It just works. We’ll probably end up recovering 200 hours a year on storage and backup issues.”
Instant Storage Scalability
Provoke also gains unlimited storage scalability with hybrid cloud storage. The company can continue to grow—open new offices, hire more people, take on new work, and create hundreds more development virtual machines—without storage constraints or worries. “Having unlimited storage scalability via StorSimple and Windows Azure is extremely reassuring,” Bee says. “I no longer lose sleep over storage shortages. We always have enough, and the StorSimple solution manages it all.”
For more Microsoft Customer Success Stories, head to: www.microsoft.com/casestudies