Hear what the experts at Violin have to say about a variety of topics on all things Flash.

Part Three: Things Get Better

by on April 20, 2016
Blue Rhino logo

It is time to talk about results.

Maybe reading this can help you figure out what to expect if you decide to follow the same path as Ferrellgas. As discussed in my two most recent blog posts, Ferrellgas went into the flash storage market looking for their next-generation platform and selected the Violin FSP 7300 for a range of reasons:

  • Faster performance
  • More capacity
  • Better capital and operating costs
  • Simplified data management
  • Better data protection

Lifeblood routing application runs four times faster

The company runs a routing application daily to optimize driver, truck and inventory utilization across 2,500 drivers servicing 46,000 portable tank exchange locations nationwide under the Blue Rhino brand. Bill Evans, VP of IT described it as one of their “lifeblood applications”.

Even with constant hand holding, the legacy storage platform only just met performance requirements. The eight-hour overnight runs left no time to react to problems in the production window. In one case, the application crashed and cost the company almost $100K in lost productivity.

When ported to the Violin FSP 7300, the routing application ran four times faster, completing in just two hours, with plenty of time to troubleshoot.

In general, Ferrellgas had considered sustained sub-five millisecond performance latencies for the highest performing tier of storage on the previous array to be “pretty darn good”. Performance latencies on the other tiers below 15 milliseconds were acceptable.

On the FSP 7300, they report seeing latencies below one millisecond 99% of the time and only rarely do latencies blip to one or two milliseconds. I have been told when troubleshooting any performance issues, the storage layer is no longer the first thing they look at.

$1M saved, capacity doubled, footprint reduced, for less

Ferrellgas is the largest provider of propane by portable tank exchange in the nation and the second largest overall distributor of propane in the United States. In a recent briefing to the financial community, the company described itself as an industry consolidator with a disciplined acquisition strategy.

In one case, just after the IT team brought the pair of Violin FSP 7300 units online, Ferrellgas leadership finalized a deal to buy another company. The acquired company’s entire IT operations had been outsourced. By working in concert, Ferrellgas and Violin were able to ensure plenty of capacity to migrate data and applications to Ferrellgas’ in-house data center and wind down the outsourcing commitment. Operating savings were estimated by Ferrellgas at almost $1M annually.

At the same time, as a result of moving to twin FSP 7300s in-house and at their secondary colo site, Ferrellgas was able to shrink the storage footprint and related power and cooling costs in both places from two floor tiles to one.

Ferrellgas was able to double its storage capacity, consolidate outsourced IT operations, and shrink its data center footprints all at a purchase price they described as lower than competitors.

Three storage tiers moved to one on Violin 7300 Flash Storage Platform

The lease on their legacy EMC storage array was expiring. It was a tiered solution with a thin layer of flash storage to store data for performance driven, tier zero applications on top of a layer of enterprise HDDs, on top of cheap-and-deep SATA storage.

This bag-on-the-side-of-the-box approach was complex and cumbersome. It required dedicated, third party data management staff to ensure today’s hot data was moved to the flash layer, then moved out so tomorrow’s hot data would have space. Putting all the data on performance-tuned flash and moving to the simple, single pane of glass management suite bundled with the FSP 7300, Ferrellgas no longer needed to tier data or manually manage placement, eliminating the third-party management costs.

To recap, by selecting Violin, Ferrellgas quadrupled performance, doubled capacity, consolidated an outsourced data center in-house saving almost $1M, cut their storage footprint in half and needed one less resource.

Two-way replication between data centers

The Ferrellgas data protection strategy with their older storage platform was based on a cumbersome log shipping process that left windows of vulnerability. It seemed like the right time to look for a better data protection scheme as well. They spent a year with a vendor, struggling to get the solution to work as advertised before sending it back. Now they have the capability to mirror data on twin FSP 7300’s within their data center and replicate as required to the set of two FSP 7300s at their colo site. They have simplified data protection and eliminated risk.

Alignment

Ferellgas was also sensitive to a factor we will call cultural alignment, working with a flash vendor who treated them the way Ferrellgas treats their customers. They don’t view Violin as a vendor, but a partner who shares their commitment, their culture, and their company character.

What’s Next?

I share all this with you now because you may be facing some of the same challenges and considering some of the same factors as you explore options. If you make the same decision to bring in Violin and the FSP 7300, you may have similar results.

Learn more, and listen to our conversation with Ferrellgas and others recorded live.

Be sure to visit this site again soon. We’ll be sharing other customers’ experiences. You may find it helpful.

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