VAR Provides 'Expert' Storage Assistance

Server storage

Babson, a liberal arts college in Wellesley, Mass., had been using a Fibre Channel SAN from EMC that could hold 2 Tbytes of data, but Director of Architecture and Development Kuljit Dharni wanted to find something easier and less expensive to expand and refresh. He also was considering a new method of server consolidation and virtualization.

Sean Shea, account manager with ESG, introduced Babson to the EqualLogic iSCSI SAN, which last year received a "positive" rating from Gartner—the research firm's second highest rating for iSCSI SAN products.

"One of the things we can demonstrate that sometimes is jaw-dropping to a few people is that we can bring in an EqualLogic array, drop it on the table, plug it into a server and literally have the SAN set up and start to provision storage within 30 minutes," Shea said. "For people who are used to the traditional fibre-based SANs, that process can take a day or so to set up."

Babson held onto the array and gave it a go, testing its scalability and performance in the college's environment. Babson didn't take it easy on the machine.

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"We tried it out. We did all sorts of silly things [that] technically should never happen in a production environment, and it handled itself very gracefully. For a month we absolutely hammered the unit and it passed with flying colors," Dharni said.

The system's flexibility allowed Babson's IT staff to restructure. Whereas formerly one SAN administrator was responsible for maintaining and making changes to the system, now all four of the people who manage the server environment are comfortable making changes or setting up volumes.

Babson decided to purchase the EqualLogic PS200 array from Expert Server Group with about 3 Tbytes of storage. About six months later, the college purchased a 4-Tbyte PS300 unit to back up the system. Now, Babson has a 7-Tbyte PS400 unit backing up the system at a remote location on campus and its first two arrays make up the primary storage environment.

Overall, Expert Server Group sold Babson about 14 Tbytes of storage for around $100,000. Getting the same scale in a Fibre Channel solution would have cost the college upward of $150,000, Dharni said.

The solution provider also helped Babson implement a virtualization solution using VMWare software, and having specialized knowledge in VMWare's products and specializing in virtualization has helped ESG grow its business beyond servers and storage, Shea said. "We were VMWare's first partner in the Northeast to pick up the product line even before there was a channel. Four and a half years ago there was VMWare direct and there was us," he said.

"Now there are 100 companies in the Northeast that sell VMWare but there are only two or three that make it almost their exclusive technology focus. That's what we do. Whether it's storage or server virtualization, that's what we specialize in. We stay ahead of the curve," Shea said.