RELDATA 9240i Gives Delta Dental More for Less

No one wants to pay more for less, yet that was exactly the situation that Delta Dental of Colorado was facing as it looked to upgrade its FC SAN to meet new application requirements. Further, new iSCSI SAN alternatives were not that much better as they had some of the same inflexibility and software licensing issues as the company’s FC SAN. It was only when Delta Dental brought in the RELDATA 9240i that it found a solution that gave it more for less.

The future for Fibre Channel (FC) SANs in mid-sized enterprises (MSEs) has never been particularly bright. FC’s high upfront costs, an infrastructure that is unfamiliar to most and pricey storage software licensing practices have precluded the adoption of FC SANs in these size organizations. It is only because FC SANs were more mature and performed better than competing storage networking technologies that FC got any traction in the first place.

That has changed in the last few years since the introduction of iSCSI SANs. iSCSI could always leverage Ethernet’s low costs, widely adopted IP protocols and more mature management interfaces. But the availability of 10 Gb Ethernet has addressed performance concerns while new use cases for iSCSI are making it a preferred choice especially when cost is a concern.

Server virtualization is becoming the poster child for why organizations should select iSCSI over FC. The vast majority (70% or more) of server virtualization deployments use external storage and, since most organizations are looking to lower costs as they virtualize servers, iSCSI is becoming the preferred option in these deployments.

However, MSEs such as Delta Dental of Colorado are finding out that selecting an iSCSI SAN is actually the easy part in the decision making process. More difficult is deciding which iSCSI midrange array they are going to use.

Delta Dental’s decision to switch from FC to iSCSI was driven primarily by economic factors. It was already using a small FC SAN and was looking to expand its storage footprint for a new data warehousing application. However, a quote to upgrade that FC SAN soured Delta Dental on its continued use.

It found that adding another shelf of FC hard disk drives (HDDs) to its existing midrange array, coupled with its higher software licensing fees, made it cost prohibitive to upgrade. Since plans to implement server virtualization and adopt iSCSI were already on Delta Dental’s road map, it decided to pursue its plans to get an iSCSI SAN.

Delta Dental’s initial research into iSCSI midrange providers turned up a number of well-known providers. However, as Delta Dental looked more deeply into these solutions, it uncovered the following issues:

  • Inability to scale at a granular level.  If Delta Dental needed more storage capacity or performance, it could not obtain the precise amount it needed. Two providers required Delta Dental to add another fully populated storage node so it had higher upfront costs while the extra capacity went unused.
  • Software licensing costs tied to capacity growth. Another provider gave Delta Dental the flexibility to add capacity on a more granular basis but software licensing problems resurfaced. Any time Delta Dental wanted to add more storage it would have to pay the provider a software licensing fee.
  • No way to use existing storage capacity. Delta Dental was making a shift towards using iSCSI but that did not mean it was ready to abandon the storage on its existing FC midrange array. It worked fine and could be used for other purposes such as testing or DR. But the only option other solutions offered was to replace this FC midrange array with their iSCSI storage solution.

These concerns prompted Delta Dental to continue its search for a solution that better matched its needs. At this point it turned to Xdata Corporation, a data storage management and solutions providers in the Denver, CO, area to see what it might offer.

After learning about what Delta Dental was trying to accomplish, as well as its concerns with competing storage solutions, Xdata recommended that Delta Dental test the RELDATA 9240i Unified Storage System.

Following its evaluation, Delta Dental found the 9240i offered the following advantages compared with competitive iSCSI solutions, and without having to upgrade its existing FC midrange array:

  • A new 12 TB RELDATA 9240i cost 30 – 40% less than an upgrade to its existing FC midrange array, was faster in provisioning storage and performed twice as fast
  • Software licensing is a one-time cost so the only expense associated with adding storage capacity is the cost of the hard disk drives (HDDs)
  • Storage capacity can be added on a granular basis in increments as small as a single HDD
  • The 9240i supports FC storage and the virtualization of external storage so Delta Dental’s existing FC midrange array could eventually be brought under the management and control of the 9240i
  • The 9240i supports 10 Gb as well as the trunking of multiple 1 Gb Ethernet ports so it can match or exceed the performance of its FC SAN

After seeing all of the benefits that the solution offered, it became clear to Delta Dental that selecting the RELDATA 9240i was the best choice for its needs.

Now having implemented its new storage solution, Delta Dental’s information systems manager, Scott Threlkeld, is thrilled with how well it has performed. He says, “Using RELDATA’s unified storage solution, we’re able to future-proof our storage investment with its unique Save As You Grow licensing model. It allows us to increase capacity without incurring the incremental licensing fees associated with traditional models. In addition, we have been very pleased with both its ease of use and the remarkable performance of the solution. RELDATA’s iSCSI-based product is much faster than our previous Fibre Channel SAN and has reduced the complexity of our network.

The rapid adoption of server virtualization and continuing storage growth are forcing MSEs such as Delta Dental of Colorado to accelerate their adoption of both iSCSI and external storage systems. However these organizations are not in a hurry to accept the hidden costs and complexities associated with managing them, nor do they want to abandon their existing storage solutions.
The RELDATA 9240i address these concerns. It takes advantage of increases in iSCSI performance, scales storage capacity incrementally, avoids hidden storage software licensing fees, and offers a roadmap for the future — all while providing a link to legacy storage systems. For these reasons, the RELDATA 9240i is gaining a following of satisfied customers and making more MSEs like Delta Dental of Colorado believers as customers find that they can really get more for less when it comes to an iSCSI storage solution.


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