Wednesday 19 June 2013

United Arab Shipping Company uses DataCore’s SANsymphony-V storage virtualisation software to increase performance and lower costs

DataCore’s SANsymphony-V combines with the power of Solid State Disk to provide ultra high I/O and enterprise management capabilities. 

DataCore Software announced that the world’s 3rd largest shipping organisation, United Arab Shipping Company (UASC) has dramatically increased performance using DataCore’s SANsymphony-V and RamSan’s SSD.
Ashraf Jamal, UASC’s Data Centre Manager, Dubai, observes “Whilst SSDs can be up to 100 times faster than SAS hard disk drives, there is high price tag for this performance – up to 20 times higher cost per GB. However what we have seen by using DataCore SANsymphony-V to auto-tier RamSan, and Nexsan, is that in reality we save by requiring significantly less storage hardware to house, manage and cool.”

UASC is an established colossus of the shipping world, covering over 200 destinations globally, via an expanding fleet of containerised, conventional and temperature controlled cargo vessels, including three recently launched ‘green’ super containerships -the largest and most advanced such vessels in the world. Back in 2010, in line with its continued plan for growth, UASC initiated a full overhaul of global IT systems, moving data centres from Singapore to Dubai and transitioning its entire network to the latest high performance integrated container carrier information system, 'TRUST', to automate business operations and provide lightning fast communication with the company’s fleet. Within the  ‘TRUST’ system sits fleet management; company email; HR system; AMOS fleet maintenance system and accounts; together with over 22,000 outlets – that allow users to book shipments/source fleet bills and obtain rates.

Ashraf Jamal reflects on the then user feedback that pointed towards variable and slow performance of applications: “Providing the infrastructure behind one of the world’s largest commercial shipping fleets requires lightning fast performance to reduce processing time and retain competitive edge; whilst providing enhanced management and speed of recovery for our core applications. To achieve this, we consulted our trusted advisors for over 4 years, ProTechnology (ProTech).”

Combined SSD/SANsymphony-V solution provides an affordable ultra high speed appliance with auto tiering, mirroring, snapshotting and replication:

Ali Saadawi, Senior Account Manager at DataCore Gold Partner ProTech, was instrumental in the design phase at UASC:- “Working with UASC, we devised a high performance computing infrastructure using TMS’s RamSan-630 Rackmount appliance working together with DataCore’s SANsymphony-V solution running on two Dell PowerEdge R710 servers.  The resultant combination creates an ultra high speed appliance with auto tiering, mirroring, snapshotting and replication in an affordable solution. From the outset, we projected that the combination of RamSan and DataCore would provide a 40% increase in the performance of RamSan alone - already one of the world’s fastest SSDs.”

Also within the Storage Area Network, ProTech installed 3 Nexsan SATABeasts 2’s, all connected over the Fibre Channel network through QLogic HBAs.

In its rawest form in a test environment, the RamSan-630 proved capable of achieving a powerful 1,200,000 IOPS (Input Output per Second) speed from the SSDs, meaning data transfer rates were hundreds of times faster than traditional mechanical hard disks. The team at UASC were able to combine that raw performance with DataCore’s SANsymphony-V unique caching algorithms to harness further dramatic jumps in I/O. (The caching within SANsymphony-V essentially recognizes I/O patterns to anticipate which blocks to read next so that it can be fulfilled quickly from memory at electronic speeds). Of even greater importance to the team was the ability to provide storage efficiency by intelligently auto-tiering data to cope with performance demands. With DataCore’s SANsymphony-V in place, the software dynamically chooses between allocating data to the RamSan’s high-end SSDs and the lower cost, higher capacity Nexsan SATABeast 2 drives. It achieves this through monitoring I/O behaviour, determining frequency of use, then dynamically moving blocks of information to the most suitable class or tier of storage device. Therefore SANsymphony™-V software automatically promotes USACs most frequently used blocks to the fastest tier, whereas least frequently used blocks get “demoted” to the slowest tier.

Now in a production environment, with the team increasing the capacity licence for SANsymphony-V with both snapshot and synchronous mirroring becoming favourite features of SANsymphony-V. The Continuous Data Protection(CDP) feature, allows UASC to return to an earlier point-in-time without taking explicit backups or interrupting applications; whilst logging and timestamping I/Os. This is helpful when USAC needs to quickly and seamlessly recover in minutes to a point in time to undo unintended data modifications, or to recover from an application bug incident. Previous Ashrif notes, this was a laborious and time consuming process that previously could take six or eight hours, locating and restoring tapes and recovering tables. Unsurprisingly for an organisation that takes high availability very seriously, SANsymphony-V’s real-time I/O synchronous replication eliminates single point of failures while making UASCs mirrored virtual disks behave like one, multi-ported shared drive.

Ashrif is pleased to endorse DataCore’s SANsymphony-V in a high performance computing environment. “Now our HPC environment is affordable, secure and easy to maintain and our TRUST and core applications certainly run faster and are more manageable through our unified storage management and virtualization layer, thanks to SANsymphony-V.”

And for the future, UASC plan to add replication to their Kuwait corporate head office, some 1000km away  for Disaster Recovery, but that’s a different chapter!

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