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SquareTwo turns to Hitachi Data Systems SAN, NAS for quick access, disaster recovery

Asset and recovery firm SquareTwo financial dumped Sun storage for Hitachi Data Systems SAN array and NAS head to support rapid growth plans while improving access times and disaster recovery.

To help meet its corporate goal of doubling in size over three years, asset recovery and management firm SquareTwo Financial overhauled its storage infrastructure by replacing a "hodgepodge" of storage with Hitachi Data Systems storage area network (SAN) and network-attached storage (NAS) for quick numbers-crunching as well as disaster recovery (DR) and data protection.

SquareTwo has about 225 employees, and its IT supports about 1,500 people counting partners and customers. SquareTwo stores hundreds of millions of case files records, and needs both instant access to data as well as a secure method of storing records for compliance.

When SquareTwo CEO Paul Larkins set a goal of doubling in size within three years when he joined the company in April of 2009, VP of engineering and operations Ken Vandenbark knew he needed to upgrade his Sun storage infrastructure to support his boss's objective.

"If we will double in size over the next 36 months, we need storage that will support that growth," Vandenbark said. "Our goal was to make the environment more straightforward with one vendor. We came from a hodgepodge of storage, and we wanted to consolidate and simplify our environment so we can focus on more important things. We're getting away from different islands of storage."

Vandenbark found its previous storage vendor Sun lacked a cohesive storage strategy. Some of SquareTwo's storage equipment came from LSI through a Sun OEM deal, and some from products Sun acquired from StorageTek. Oracle's acquisition of Sun -- pending when SquareTwo switched over – was likely to make things more complicated.

"We evaluated the top contenders in the mid-tier and enterprise," he said. "Our storage had to be scalable and high performing, with the ability to replicate across sites and with a comprehensive reporting solution."

Vandenbark said HDS had everything on his list plus professional services to help him migrate over. He looked at the vendor's flagship Universal Storage Platform V (USP V) platform but decided its midrange Adaptable Modular Storage (AMS) 2500 provided the block storage capabilities SquareTwo needed with room to grow. The company switched to an HDS SAN last November, after a long period of working with HDS on finding the right fit.

"It took over a year to come up with the design, selection and implementation," Vandenbark said. "But for us, it was a five-year plan and the AMS 2500 fit our five-year plan."

SquareTwo uses the AMS for its enterprise storage, but Vandenbark also wanted a way to move data between his main office in Denver, Colo., and a disaster recovery site outside Chicago. He considered using HDS's Universal Replicator to move data between sites, but decided to tackle both unstructured data as well as DR with a Hitachi NAS 3100 head, based on BlueArc's Titan platform that HDS sells through an OEM deal.

Vandenbark said SquareTwo Financial can now provision new storage in less than an hour and is able to keep its data current to within four hours of transactions.

"We use Hitachi NAS for replication and snapshotting between our primary and DR location," Vandenbark said. "We also have a lot of scanned documents on the NAS system. We keep a lot of documents like bank statements, and that information just grows tremendously. We needed something that lets us provide quicker response times for customers as well as a way to back it up. Our NAS provides an archive and gives us quick restores."

SquareTwo also uses the HDS disk for backup, complementing its StorageTek tape libraries. "We use the Hitachi array as a landing spot for critical backups, and data that needs to go offsite goes to tape," Vandenbark said of his backup plan.

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