Storage Infrastructure Offers Speed & Flexibility
By Samuel Greengard
Operating one of the nation's largest and most influential Hispanic-focused media agencies is no small task. For Lopez Negrete Communications, information technology is at the center of the business. The Houston-based full-service agency—which serves the likes of Microsoft, MillerCoors, Kraft Foods and Verizon Wireless—creates advertising and other content that bridges the gap between brands and Hispanic customers.
"There are considerable technology challenges associated with running the business successfully," explains Chris Casey, IT manager at Lopez Negrete. Among other things, the firm's IT department must manage and connect a spate of devices, while accommodating increasingly large data files used for graphics and audio and video production. In some cases, these files top out at 3 or 4 gigabytes.
Four years ago, the company had to confront significant storage problems and modernize its IT environment without overbuilding and overbuying systems. "In the past, we had major storage issues and significant performance problems resulting from an older IT infrastructure," Casey says. Because of a lack of network speed and space constraints, "People stored a lot of data on individual workstations rather than on centralized servers." This resulted in duplicate files, including file versions that didn't match.
The situation contributed to major headaches and bottlenecks. "There was a lot of wasted time and effort as designers, artists and technical specialists attempted to locate files and other assets," he recalls. Some files weren't backed up adequately and others were tucked away on tapes.
What made the situation more frustrating was that the agency's clients frequently reuse or modify an ad or other collateral at some point in the future—sometimes years later.
"We need to locate files and content promptly so we can update them," Casey says. "It's not as simple as waiting a few extra minutes for a file to load or staying at work later to get a project completed. Missing a print or production deadline is extremely expensive. In some cases, it can result in a client pulling the account."
After examining a number of storage options and vendors, the company installed a Dell Compellent storage area network (SAN). "We had to upgrade storage capabilities and build a more robust network capable of supporting business growth and growing volumes of digital data," Casey explains.
Today, the SAN environment provides about 51 terabytes of usable data storage spread across three physical servers and 32 virtual servers. Lopez Negrete relies on a 100-megabit fiber connection to the data center and a 10-gigabit ISCSI connection within the SAN.
The results have been impressive: The company has eliminated the obstacles that previously drove up costs and reduced efficiencies. File transfers now take seconds rather than minutes, and Lopez Negrete has achieved a 40 percent improvement in storage utilization. In addition, it has highly reliable data protection with hourly SAN-level snapshots, and it has realized a 50 percent reduction in network infrastructure costs.
"The difference in our IT environment is day and night," Casey concludes. "We now have a storage infrastructure in place that provides the flexibility and speed to deliver the best possible results to our clients."