Boys Town Adds Flash Arrays to Boost Flexibility

As organizations wade deeper into digital technologies, many encounter speed and performance bottlenecks. Adding or updating one system cascades into issues for many others.

Boys Town, a leading nonprofit child-care agency in Omaha, Neb., found itself in exactly this position a couple of years ago. “As we grew and added technologies, such as VDI, performance lagged,” says Jamie Pearson, vice president of IT. “Caregivers and others could not access the information they required in the timeframe necessary.”

With more than 500 users accessing data—from medical professionals and social workers to administrative staff and outside contractors—the frustration level was on the rise. For example, slow-booting machines and subpar performance cut into time caregivers could otherwise spend with children and families.

In addition, the organization wanted to step off the treadmill of replacing desktops every three or four years. “When we moved to VMware VDI about five years ago, we continued to rely on an existing storage area network,” Pearson says. “Everything worked, but it was not anything close what we needed.” Overall, about one quarter of the users rely on the virtual desktops.

All-Flash Arrays Dramatically Boost Performance

After examining several technology solutions and vendors, Boys Town opted to move to EMC XtremIO, which taps all-flash arrays to dramatically boost performance. It went live with the technology last fall. The organization now uses two 10-terabyte devices and one 40-terabyte system running on a Brocade storage area network (SAN) fabric.

“The solution offered a level of scalability and flexibility we required,” Pearson says. “We also were able to do things like deduplication and compression in a way that fit out business and IT approach.”

At the same time, the organization updated from an iSCSI network to Fibre Channel. “With all of these changes, we noticed an enormous difference in performance in our virtual work environment,” he adds.

The installation and transition to the new storage environment went smoothly, and performance has improved dramatically. “We have seen an incredible increase in mission-critical application performance, specifically for our National Youth Care Database [NDB],” Pearson reports.

Caregivers use the database to ensure that children and their families are safe and receiving the care and treatment they need. In addition, the deduplication and compression capabilities have made it easy to add new applications and data sources, including CRM.

The net effect? Over the past year, XtremIO has helped Boys Town boost the number of data sources it uses from 700 to more than 4,000.

The organization now plans to expand the use of flash arrays. “We are experiencing double-digit growth and are looking to digitize a growing array of processes and tasks],” Pearson says. “We are about 99 percent virtualized, and the filing cabinets are disappearing.”

In addition, the organization is expanding its mobile capabilities, and it now offers its IT expertise to outside organizations so that they can improve their IT planning. “We now have the ability to pull up data and have it at our fingertips,” Pearson reports. “Today, it’s critical to be a data-driven and technology-driven organization.”