Case Study: NEXL, LocatePLUS Keep Data At Hand

Today, LocatePLUS stores about 70 Tbytes of data, and that information is accessed by more than 12,000 subscribers, including law enforcement and insurance company personnel. "We're maintaining what I believe is the largest SQL database in the world," Latorella said.

Until recently, LocatePLUS, Beverly, Mass., was using direct-attached storage based on home-built storage arrays. But it wasn't the easily managed data infrastructure that the company,which went public last year,wanted to show prospective customers.


>> FOCUS: Enterprise-level storage, networking and security
>> PROBLEM & SOLUTION: LocatePLUS had 70 Tbytes of data on home-built DAS arrays but wanted a brand-name solution. NEXL deployed an EMC-based SAN.
>> PRODUCTS & SERVICES USED: EMC Clariion CX600 arrays; Promise Technology arrays; McData Fibre Channel switches
• There's still a market for SAN deployments; be armed with the expertise you'll need to win new accounts.
• A good rapport with vendors can increase the possibility of getting a services contract.
• Create expandable solutions so clients have room to grow.

To improve his company's storage infrastructure, Latorella contacted EMC, which put him in touch with NEXL, a Peabody, Mass.-based solution provider.

Tim Allen, vice president of sales at NEXL, said that LocatePLUS had an infrastructure built on "off-the-shelf equipment hacked together," and that it needed a best-of-breed platform to bring in new business.

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Latorella had heard that EMC was a good storage supplier, but it was only in the past year that LocatePLUS could afford to purchase a storage system from the vendor, he said.

EMC had competition, too, from Dell Computer, whose 20-plus 4600 four-way servers made up the backbone of LocatePLUS' existing database solution.

"Dell chased our business," Latorella said. "But it wasn't as reactive with us in terms and financing. ... NEXL seemed to want the business more."

In the end, LocatePLUS decided to go with a SAN from EMC, although Dell will continue to be the customer's server supplier.

In April, LocatePLUS purchased two of EMC's Clariion CX600 arrays, which together provide 6 Tbytes of Fibre Channel capacity and 39 Tbytes of ATA capacity. LocatePLUS also acquired ATA-based arrays from Promise Technology.

The hybrid Fibre Channel-ATA infrastructure allows LocatePLUS to back up data to disks for local file recovery and to tape for disaster recovery, Latorella said.

The customer also purchased two McData Fibre Channel switches to allow for redundant data paths, Allen said. "These arrays have excess capacity, and they have excess ports on the switch," he said. "This gives [LocatePLUS] space to add more servers."

Today, the EMC installation is complete, and LocatePLUS is in the process of migrating data to its new SAN. "They have such a large amount of data, so it's an onerous process to map it all," Allen said.

The only post-installation hurdle has been changing employees' mindsets, Latorella said.

"Internally, we were going from a very unstructured [direct-attached storage] environment to a highly structured SAN environment," he said. "A group of us were highly resistant to the SAN, while another group was more progressive. ... We're trying to keep the energy and innovation of a startup while moving to a process- and release-driven environment."

As the solution provider, NEXL not only played a pivotal role in deploying the SAN but also acted as a liaison between LocatePLUS and EMC, Allen said.

"LocatePLUS was not used to that level of technology [discussion]," he said. "We helped them navigate the deal with EMC. We have a really great relationship with EMC's sales force. Contrary to what some say, their guys are very interested in working with the channel."

As for Latorella, he can't praise NEXL enough. "Anytime we have a problem, they get EMC right here," he said. "NEXL came well referred by EMC, and they deserve it."