Software-Defined Storage Does the Heavy Lifting

By Douglas Soltesz

The physical act of moving residences is not an activity that many people enjoy. At Budd Van Lines, we pride ourselves on taking the stress and anxiety out of moving.

Part of delivering excellent service is interacting with the nationwide relocation teams, warehouse staff, office workers and remote sales offices. Our 400 employees make sure that everything goes smoothly for the more than 6,000 relocations that we handle each year.

In 2012, a number of new projects were coming online and overburdening our existing storage solutions. Some projects were creating massive amounts of data that overran our existing capacity. These projects were an upgrade to our video surveillance system and our new document management software.

In our line of business, security is the paramount concern of our clients, so we work hard to ensure a safe, secure and stress-free relocation. In 2012, we switched from analog cameras to 1080p security cameras and experienced a more than eight-fold surge in data storage. The cameras helped improve freight security and employee safety, but our current SAN [storage area network] was unable to either expand the capacity needed or sustain the write IOPS [input/output operations per second] without a complete replacement.

The desire to “Go Green,” decrease billing time and increase overall efficiency kicked off the initiative to go paperless. Our new document management system needed a NAS [network-attached storage] interface able to store big data.

Current and past paperwork is scanned and automatically processed into our system, but these high-resolution scans were eating up a ton of space. With a long-term goal of implementing a tablet in every truck to capture photos and paperwork, we needed a system that would meet current and future needs.

At the same time as our need for more data was increasing, so were our performance requirements. Our VMware virtualized systems continued to grow, pushing the demand for high IOPS to analyze data from a new ERP accounting system, GPS data and other SQL databases.

Our trucks, trailers and other modular assets have GPS tracking devices installed. While the data from the GPS is collected via a SaaS [Software as a Service] application, the analysis of the data generated is handled in-house.

The GPS data helps with asset management, truck re-routing, scheduling clients and keeping drivers safe by monitoring hours driven. As a prime example of an Internet of things initiative, this network connectivity of the GPS devices sending and receiving data placed an additional strain on the storage infrastructure.

Solving Problems With Software-Defined Storage

As we searched for a new storage infrastructure, we needed a system that was optimized for our VMware environment but wouldn’t break our budget. Moving to a software-defined storage (SDS) infrastructure proved to be the solution to both our scalability problems and affordability concerns.

Using Nexenta’s SDS platform NexentaStor, we have increased our video storage capacity from one terabyte to 84TB, and our VMware capacity from 11TB to 32TB. We also set up a more robust disaster recovery, replication and archive capacity with 32TB in a remote warehouse.

In all, Budd deployed 148TB of raw data. This capacity accommodated the new cameras, improved our I/O ratio by nearly 300 percent, and established an off-site backup location to keep the company online in the event of a disaster.

Because software-defined storage abstracts the storage software layer from the underlying hardware, we can use any commodity hardware, which reduces our storage infrastructure costs and also frees us from vendor lock-in. Like most CIOs, I have a keen eye on cost, which was the initial driver to moving to an SDS implementation, but the performance of NexentaStor is what impressed us. Replication, in-cache memory and tiering capabilities are surpassing our expectations.

If you have a virtualized environment and need to assure production data is replicated in regularly scheduled intervals—in our case, every 15 minutes—software-defined storage could be your answer without putting a strain on budget. Be warned that not all SDS vendors offer replication, which was a deciding factor for us.

We now have an RPO [recovery point objective] of 15 minutes in place. We think that’s pretty amazing considering it is running on commodity hardware, and three years of snapshots are ready to go at any time.

Moving to software-defined storage has given Budd Van Lines high availability and integration with our virtualized environment. It also enables us to scale as our company continues to grow.

Storage woes don’t have to slow you down or consume your budget. Let software-defined storage do the heavy lifting.

Douglas Soltesz, shown in the photo, is the vice president and CIO of Budd Van Lines, an independent van line serving Corporate America. It is headquartered in Somerset, N.J.

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