Object storage can be intimidating to some companies, but it no longer is to Budd Van Lines.
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Damage done by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 prompted the Somerset, New Jersey-based moving company to integrate the SwiftStack Object Storage Platform for disaster recovery and the SwiftStack Filesystem Gateway to convert document files to objects. In the process, BVL eliminated the need for daily backup of its document-management system.
BVL, which employs 450 people, was nearing completion on a three-year analysis comparing various backup storage products when Sandy wrought devastation across New Jersey, underscoring the company's need for budget-friendly rapid recovery. Three SwiftStack nodes, each set up for 40 TB of raw storage and priced at $2,500 apiece, provide distributed replication of virtual servers and virtual desktop infrastructure between BVL's New Jersey headquarters and a satellite office in California.
"We calculate that Swift is going to cost us about $100 per terabyte of raw storage in Year One. That's for high-level enterprise production storage that includes fast access and replication to multiple sites," said Doug Soltesz, BVL's vice president of information systems and technology.
The SwiftStack object system is mirrored on Supermicro X8 servers with Xeon processors and redundant power supplies, using a Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) network connection. The X8s are outfitted with 4 TB Western Digital Red Line NAS hard drives.
Distributed replication boosts failure tolerance for VDI
BVL's data center is virtualized with a VMware vSphere cluster of four ESXi hosts to support a mixed workload, including Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Exchange Server and applications for customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning. The virtualized environment consists of 6 TB of raw capacity -- reduced to 3 TB with data compression -- for virtual machines (VMs), VDI snapshots, file servers, user home directories and DocuWare document-management software.
BVL relies on Citrix XenDesktop 7.5 to support between 100 and 150 virtual desktop deployments, using the ESXi hypervisor for non-persistent storage. The data written to storage each day gets wiped out overnight. New VMs get spawned from a single gold image linked through clones and VMware to boost the efficiency of cache hits. BVL also uses a XenApp 5 farm for persistent VM storage, backup software by Veeam Software, and Infinio Systems' server-side RAM cache software to boost storage performance.
After the busy summer moving season winds down, BVL plans to install 10 GbE Internet circuits at offices in Georgia, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin to support additional SwiftStack nodes. Soltesz said the geographic distribution enables backup copies to be generated from secondary copies as well as the original data store.
"We like that SwiftStack enables us to tolerate massive failure and runs on inexpensive hardware on our premises to support applications that need extremely high performance, yet must be economical. I think that paradigm will drive more businesses to change their use cases for object storage," he said.
Object objective: Go paperless
Aside from bolstering DR, going paperless was another reason for choosing SwiftStack storage. BVL generates roughly a half-million documents annually, including photos, bills of lading, invoices, inventory records and weight tickets. Those paper documents require long-term archiving -- "We throw nothing away," Soltesz said -- and compete for bandwidth with primary production storage on a ZFS-based NexentaStor SAN, which provides 36 TB of raw capacity.
DocuWare natively supports file-based storage systems, but the sheer volume of data became a "showstopper," especially during peak season. To alleviate the bottleneck, BVL added the SwiftStack Filesystem Gateway to convert paper documents into objects. SwiftStack's system automatically generates backup copies and replicates them offsite, dramatically reducing dependence on disk-to-disk backups that eventually wind up on tape.
"All of a sudden, I've got backup and replication in one solution, and I get it as soon as every single object is written. It removes the complexity of daily backup from the equation," Soltesz said.
By moving to SwiftStack object storage, BVL has reduced read traffic on the primary NexentaStor SAN by reclassifying some solid-state drives to manage writes, freeing up a pool of non-persistent storage for VDI workloads.
Before selecting SwiftStack, BVL considered Data Domain deduplication hardware by EMC and Amazon Glacier cloud backup. Soltesz said neither product matched SwiftStack's total cost of ownership and flexibility. "Something inexpensive usually isn't reliable and high-performing, yet that's how I would describe SwiftStack."
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