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Meeting storage needs in logistics and supply chain

Via Enterprise Innovation : For leading logistics and supply chain solutions company Freight Mark Malaysia, expansion into new markets has concurrently led to an ever-increasing volume of data that their legacy storage infrastructure could no longer support.

According to Yau Kah Keng, the company’s IT Director, “Freight Mark was enjoying strong growth with both customer numbers and freight volumes rising rapidly,” he shares—but pressure had likewise increased on the company’s core IT infrastructure, which supported the business’ daily activities.

“It got to the stage where we were maxing out 4.8 terabytes of data storage capacity in our existing HP storage area network,” Keng says. As this had consequently impacted application performance and employee productivity, Freight Mark recognized that changes needed to be made.

Working with its technology partner Jardine OneSolution, Freight Mark evaluated the range of storage alternatives available, conducting comparative evaluations of a shortlist of potential products. After a comprehensive review, Keng says they eventually decided on implementing a flash storage network. “With flash storage, companies receive a small amount of storage space at a high cost per GB. The benefit these systems deliver is consistent low latency delivery of data to a subset of application servers that require high performance,” he informs.

Technology deployment

Among the challenges facing enterprise IT architects today include how to best deploy flash in their data centers. Companies look toward cost-efficient ways to deliver flash’s promises of higher performance, but Keng says, “the challenge is made more difficult by the ever-changing and often opaque demands that various applications place on the storage system.”

Such concerns, he points out, “stem from the lack of mechanisms available to fully analyze the performance impact of flash on storage infrastructures, and the implications of long-term total cost of operation.”

When Freight Mark Malaysia opted to implement the Nimble Storage Adaptive Flash platform, Keng reports that installation and data migration was completed in a little over four weeks and the process was completed without any disruptions to business systems. “In view of our concerns, Nimble Storage offered scale-out architecture, allowing performance and capacity to be seamlessly scaled beyond the physical limitations of a single array, to a storage cluster. Doing so eliminated capacity silos and performance hotspots, allowing us to efficiently manage all storage resources as a single entity,” he shares.

Going for flash

According to Keng, flash’s significantly faster processing affords Freight Mark significant advantages over its competitors.

As Freight Mark was facing constraints in storage resources, leading to a reduction in application performance and a need for constant hardware upgrades, flash proved to be the solution to this issue. “We went with the Nimble CS220G, which provided an extensive 12TB of storage capacity, and whose benefits include an improved performance of virtualized environment and core applications, lowered overall IT management costs and a time extension from six to 18 months for hardware refreshes,” says Keng.

Nimble’s state of the art scalability and performance, Keng adds, also resulted to “impressive thin provisioning and thin cloning capabilities.” Such technologies have been able to significantly enhance Freight Mark’s overall IT infrastructure. “We operate in a virtualized environment, hence the thin provisioning capability means that when we assign new servers, we can dynamically adjust their assigned storage as required. This allows us to make much better use of our storage resources as we need only assign exactly what will be used,” he says.

Significant productivity gains and cost savings are among the tangible benefits that flash storage solutions have achieved for Freight Mark Malaysia. “Nimble Storage helped us reduce upgrading costs as the hardware does not require changes to be undertaken on a regular basis. Whereas before we had to increase storage infrastructure every six months, now we estimated that the current storage will adequately meet our needs for at least 18 months. We’ve also noticed operating costs have been reduced by 15 percent as we save approximately RM100,000 a year. Our productivity gains are also in excess of 30 percent on hardware performance and efficiencies,” reports Keng.

For enterprises looking to leverage flash in their business, Keng dishes out three tips.

First, he says, “when it comes to cost, technology investments are validated on the basis of ROI, value and overall expenditure, or total cost of ownership. Hence, IT departments have to put forward a compelling case for investing in new technology and to be mindful of how strategic these investments are.”

“Secondly, it is critical that IT departments evaluate vendors on their approach to addressing the enterprise’s mid- to long-term goals. This impacts the business’ overall performance, so understanding this relationship is important,” he says.

Finally, he asserts that “understanding and identifying hidden costs that your providers might not mention at the early stage of negotiations” is crucial. “This impacts the other business metric for us, which is total cost of ownership. And this ultimately impacts on our ROI,” he states.

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