VAR Helps Architectural Firm Replace 5 Storage Vendors With 1

An architectural firm looking to replace its entire multi-vendor storage infrastructure got lucky when the sales team of one of its primary vendors bolted for Nimble Storage, a startup which, with the help of a local solution provider, managed to replace everything with a single product line.

That firm, MulvannyG2 Architecture, was in a perfect storm of storage upgrade requirements. Mike Brester, systems administrator for the Bellevue, Wash.-based company, said nearly all of its storage infrastructure products last Spring were coming up on end of life.

It included MulvannyG2's Dell EqualLogic storage arrays, its Data Domain disk backup appliances, its CommVault data protection software, its InMage disaster recovery technology, and its ADIC tape library.

"The maintenance contracts were all coming up at roughly the same time," Brester said. "So we were looking at renewing the maintenance contracts or a forklift upgrade. And to top it off, we were reaching our max. capacity."

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Just about that time, MulvannyG2 was contacted by OptiStor Technologies, a Bellevue, Wash.-based solution provider which had implemented the architectural firm's EqualLogic infrastructure and which was a long-term Data Domain (now owned by EMC) partner stretching back to that vendor's beta test days.

Part of the Data Domain sales rep team in the Pacific Northwest had recently left that vendor to join Nimble Storage, a San Jose, Calif.-based developer of the Cache-Accelerated Sequential Layout (CASL) storage architecture which combines flash memory with high-capacity disk to converge storage, backup, and disaster recovery into a single architecture.

Ron Studham, president and CEO of OptiStor, said his company has a reputation for taking chances with emerging vendors, who could prove themselves capable of meeting customers' requirements.

"One of the things we always have interest in is finding the next new technology that can upset the market," Studham said. "We were one of the first to work with Kashya, now EMC RecoverPoint. We were a beta site for Data Domain, and the first to ship Data Domain into Canada. And we were one of the first iSCSI SAN providers with EqualLogic. So I look for something different."

When Data Domain's local sales reps moved to work for Nimble Storage, it was an opportunity for both OptiStor and MulvannyG2 to try something completely new.

Fortunately for OptiStor, MulvannyG2 was not afraid of working with a startup, especially one which was founded by former Data Domain and NetApp executives, Brester said.

A couple months after the Data Domain sales reps left that company, and just about the time when all of MulvannyG2's maintenance contracts were coming due, they contacted MulvannyG2 to tell them about Nimble Storage, which at the time had already signed up OptiStor as its first solution providers in the Pacific Northwest, he said.

For MulvannyG2, it was not a tough decision to consider Nimble. "We knew the sales team before," he said. "We knew that if they left Data Domain for Nimble, Nimble had to have a good product. And we knew the reputation of the founders. Also, they had been testing it for two years. So while it was version 1 of the product to the public, it had been around for some time."

Choosing the right storage provider was crucial for MulvannyG2. The company designs buildings for customers in the U.S. and China, and a typical directory for a project can run between 4 GBs and 8 GBs, including multiple 3D drawings, Brester said. Also, when Photoshop drawings are added, the total capacity per project can be up to 15 GBs.

Next: Fast Move From Test To Production

OptiStor in September put in the first Nimble Storage appliance as a test unit, which Studham said is typical with any customer. But then MulvannyG2 did something out of the ordinary.

"Before we finished the evaluation, they moved it into production," Studham said. "I don't know of any product that has been moved so fast into production. They brought it in, kicked the tires, and then they, not us, moved it into production."

The new appliance provides MulvannyG2 with 15 TBs of raw storage capacity, or a minimum of 20 TBs with compression, along with snapshot technology, Brester said. And, with a second device at a separate location for replicating data, the company also got disaster recovery.

As a result, MulvannyG2 was able to replace the EqualLogic, Data Domain, CommVault, InMage, and ADIC hardware and software it had been using, he said.

Replacing all those other products was a very real illustration of the power of converged storage, Studham said. "Each of those products had their own maintenance periods, their own 'oops' moments," he said. "So if someone comes in and says they can get it all ala carte, at no extra costs, that's converged storage."

MulvannyG2 is coming up on another perfect storm, this time in terms of end-of-lifing both its four-year-old Dell servers running VMware and its old core switch, Brester said. But after talking to the Cisco rep about networking, the company decided to go with Cisco's UCS, which combines servers and networking into a single architecture, he said.

"When we looked at UCS, we liked what we saw," he said. "Also, we saw that if we bought the servers along with the switches, we'd get a better discount."