VM-Aware Storage Systems Enable UK Hosting Provider to Deliver Faster Performance and Improve Disaster Recovery for All Cloud Customers
Access Alto is a leading VMware hosting provider, delivering cloud computing and managed hosting solutions to some of the world’s most respected and agile brands. Access Alto's IT infrastructure is located at tier-3 facilities located in the UK, United States, and Asia, all of which have full SSAE-16/ISO27001 certification, ensuring the necessary controls and safeguards are in place to meet the highest security standards for data.
Since November 2014, Access Alto is now part of Access Group (www.theaccessgroup.com).
Access Alto initially built its public and private cloud services offerings using NetApp, Dell EqualLogic and Compellent storage systems. “When potential clients evaluate our public and private cloud offerings, they usually compare us to the other large cloud providers, like Amazon Web Services or Rackspace,” explained Dan Gould, CTO of Access Alto. “But when these prospects ran trials of our cloud offerings on our old storage infrastructure, they weren’t always seeing the level of performance they were looking for.”
Scalability was also a big issue with the previous systems. “It was very difficult to expand the environment efficiently,” noted Gould. “With our previous system, you have to carve the storage up into aggregates, and every time you add more disks, you have to add new aggregates. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t automatically spread the performance across the whole array. As a result, we were continually adding more and more disks to controllers that were already overloaded.”
Searching for a New Storage Platform
Gould began the search for a better storage platform earlier this year. “We started by looking at EMC storage systems, but they weren’t a good fit for our public and private cloud and multi-tenancy environment,” he said. “The EMC technology wasn’t designed for virtualization—they’re applying their existing technology to virtual environments. That approach just wasn’t working for us.”
Access Alto first encountered Tintri through the VMware Partner Exchange. “The Tintri solution was designed for virtualization. It is focused 100% on virtualized environments, rather than just a conventional SAN that has been re-tasked to virtualization.”
Testing the Tintri System
Gould decided to run a Tintri POC demo on Access Alto’s development and production workloads. After the successful demo, they purchased two Tintri T880 systems, one for the company’s main datacenter in the US and another one in the UK. An additional T820 system was used to create a special dedicated environment for one of Access Alto’s largest customers. “Tintri was by far the best choice for our public and private cloud services. It just ticked all of our boxes for us,” admitted Gould.
An Easy Deployment
“We really like the ease of deployment of the Tintri platform,” noted Gould. “It used to take over a week to install our previous systems, since we had to enlist the help of their Professional Services engineers to configure the arrays and properly prepare the environment. The Tintri deployment took just one day. We just gave it an IP address, connected it to the network, presented the storage, and we were in business.”
“Tintri has created an amazingly simple system,” Gould reported. “Our engineers were able to work with it straight away without having to spend weeks in training. It meant that we could move straight into using it in production very quickly.”
No Additional Management Overhead
“We haven’t reduced any of the time we were spending managing storage, since Tintri was an addition to our existing environment,” Gould explained. “We still have the incumbent storage systems in place for the near-term. However, as Tintri is a self-managing system, we don’t have to spend any additional time managing our storage environment. It does what it’s supposed to do without us having to feed and water it every day.”
Gould was also impressed with the smaller footprint of the Tintri systems. “The 4U Tintri units provide up to 110 TB of storage. In contrast, the previous systems consume 4U just for the controllers alone! Then you have to add the disks after that. When you add it all up, we are getting a 4x reduction in datacenter space by switching to Tintri. Reducing the storage footprint wasn't our primary driver for moving to Tintri, it’s just a nice added benefit.”
The Tintri systems are providing much higher performance for Access Alto’s public and private cloud services. “The way that Tintri is able to balance workloads enables us to guarantee quality of service and IOPS,” Gould explained. “Our clients that had performance problems in our previous environment are no longer having issues. Tintri has taken us from a position where we could have potentially lost customers, to one where we can retain all of our existing ones and attract new ones as well.”
Tintri Talking Points
“Tintri gives us some good talking points when selling our solution to prospects,” Gould shared. “It allows us to state confidently that our customers will get a certain level of performance, and it enables us to show how easy it is to manage the environment. We can demonstrate the reporting granularity we obtain through the Global Center console, and the ability to deal with multiple workloads without impacting performance. All of these things are very important in a multi-tenant environments. Customers may not think about all of these capabilities initially, but it’s essential functionality that they will benefit from in the long run. We are now standardizing on Cisco UCS and Tintri as our hosting platform for private and public clouds going forward.”
Improving Disaster Recovery
Access Alto is now able to offer its customers a better option for disaster recovery. “We now have the ability to offer native multi-tenant replication with Tintri,” Gould explained. “We can allow customers to either migrate into our data centers on the Tintri platform that they are familiar and happy with, or they can use Tintri when they come up in disaster recovery. This provides our customers with a lot of peace of mind at a time where their businesses are suffering significant impact due to a disaster. With Tintri’s native replication, we can give them option of replicating to a platform with the performance they need to get their businesses back up and running as quickly as possible.”