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Retailers Take Stock: "Empowerment through Flexibility" Available Today with a Storage Hypervisor

 

Welcome to The Virtual Viewpoint: Storage Virtualization - A Contributed Series by DataCore Software

Retailers Take Stock: “Empowerment through Flexibility” Available Today with a Storage Hypervisor Written by DataCore Software President and CEO George Teixeira

Retail There are more than a million retail companies in the United States, ranging from mom and pop corner stores to large department store chains and big box stores, not to mention online retailers. At first glance, you’d be hard pressed to point out what virtually all of them have in common besides selling merchandise piecemeal to the general public. That is, until you looked at their bottom line, which is characterized by razor-thin net profit margins, generally around a couple of percent.

Little wonder that retailers have been among the most aggressive adopters of server virtualization, seeing in it a way to improve their bottom line by reducing IT costs and promoting the agility needed to meet competitive demands. The economic uncertainty of the last few years and its impact on consumer spending has made this technology even more strategic for retailers. But as they expand their virtual server footprint, many retailers find that their storage infrastructure stands in the way of continued improvement.

That was the case with Thorntons, a company that operates 162 gasoline and convenience stores, car washes and travel plazas across Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and soon, Florida. Thorntons dove into server virtualization in 2007, and now over 90 percent of the company’s systems are virtualized. But as the company grew—both in terms of new stores and the applications that support them—its SAN couldn’t keep up. By 2011, with storage utilization soaring past 80%, performance was starting to suffer, and it looked like another, large storage expenditure would be needed.

But Kevin Schmidt, senior network engineer at the company, knew a better way. He didn’t want to keep just throwing storage at the problem, especially since that approach wouldn’t leave room in the budget for the high availability and disaster recovery capabilities that his roadmap called for. He turned to DataCore partner The Mirazon Group, and the SANsymphony-V storage hypervisor, which does for storage what VMware does for servers: managing all storage assets as a single virtual pool. The benefits were immediate and far-reaching.

When interviewed previously this year, Schmidt stated, “The deployment of SANsymphony-V not only boosted overall systems performance, but basically paid for our high availability deployment and gave us a huge boost towards a full disaster recovery site. It was a significant savings overall and put us in much better shape to keep our infrastructure solid and enhance our productivity.”

SANsymphony’s RAM cache vastly decreased latency for all of Thorntons’ storage, resulting not only in faster application performance but also much faster backups. A monthly profit and loss report that used to take 9-10 hours to run now only takes 3.5 hours, and overall backup time, whether for VMs, SQL databases, or a full system backup, was reduced by almost 50%.

Even more important, by boosting the performance and utilization of both the new SAN and the old one, SANsymphony-V made it possible to repurpose the old SAN as the target of DataCore’s synchronous mirroring capabilities, providing the non-stop high availability demanding by the chain’s stores, which operate around the clock. The old SAN was moved to another site on the Thornton campus, linked to the primary storage by 8-gigabit Fibre Channel. If primary storage fails, the secondary site takes over immediately, with no effect on applications or users. The next step will see this site upgraded with additional VMware ESX servers to provide full disaster recovery capabilities, so that even if the primary servers go down, operations can continue.

You can read the details in the full case study, SANsymphony-V Ensures Uptime and Non-Stop Business Operations at “Convenience Store Chain of the Year” Thorntons, and view more examples of storage hypervisor benefits for the retail industry here.

Photo by Chris Sampson (http://www.flickr.com/people/lodekka/

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About the Author

George Teixeira is President and CEO of DataCore Software. See full bio here.
Published Friday, May 11, 2012 6:29 AM by David Marshall
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