HarborOne Credit Union suffered from the usual storage hassles: multiple servers with direct-attached storage, poor capacity utilization and lack of centralized management. Only one thing was blocking the financial institution's road to a safe, conservative SAN purchase from EMC, Hewlett-Packard or Xiotech: Winslow Technology Group.
At first glance, Winslow didn't seem the right choice for HarborOne. The Boston-based solution provider hadn't even been in business a year when its president, Scott Winslow, approached John White, MIS officer and network administrator at Brockton, Mass-based HarborOne. Add to that the fact that the solution Winslow had in mind—storage software and hardware from startup Compellent Technologies, Minneapolis—had yet to prove itself in the market.
But during a series of four meetings in the first half of 2004, Winslow and Compellent not only convinced White that the "new kid on the block" could provide the right SAN, but they also fought off the toughest kid on the block—Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC.
"It was truly a battle between EMC and Compellent," Winslow said. "EMC had its proposal on the table. John [White] and his team visited EMC's headquarters. EMC had the advantage. John [White] could just drive out and visit EMC."
Winslow invested an incredible amount of time and energy convincing HarborOne that he had the right solution, and even brought in Phil Soran, CEO of Compellent, to meet HarborOne's CEO and discuss Compellent's business plan, personnel and technology. In the end, his persistence paid off. HarborOne realized that Compellent's software offered a couple key functions the credit union required.
Compellent's modular SAN solution allows mixing and matching of drives, controllers and enclosures. White also realized that Compellent's virtualization and incremental backup capabilities would allow improved control of storage management and acquisition costs by pooling capacity from HarborOne's servers and allowing backups to be done without requiring excess capacity. "We didn't need 20 Tbytes to manage the 2 Tbytes we actually use," he said.
The most important feature was the ability to boot a server from the SAN, enabling his organization to migrate to diskless servers, White said. "As servers go through their three-year cycles, we want to replace them without going through any upgrades," he said. "And if a server does fail, we can point the volume to another server."
At first, HarborOne considered the possibility of switching to a blade server architecture but decided to stay with more traditional models, White said. "We only had 10 servers or so, and if we used blades, they would fit in one enclosure," he said. "We worried that if the enclosure died, we could lose all 10 servers. Because we are an SMB, we felt that putting all of our eggs in one basket could be harmful."
Winslow began installation of HarborOne's Compellent SAN solution last May, with a pilot test conducted in one small department. Although there were some minor issues with the early version of the Compellent software, which was new at the time, "Scott [Winslow] was there to work with us and Compellent" to resolve them, White said.
The completed SAN solution was in place last July. It included two Compellent controllers, two McData Sphereon Fibre Channel switches, two QLogic host bus adapters, and one Compellent storage enclosure with nine 146-Gbyte hard drives.
Since the installation, HarborOne has moved its data center to a new corporate office with help from Winslow. The solution provider also helped add an additional seven 146-Gbyte hard drives.
Winslow also expects the credit union this year to add two or three new servers and the capability to remotely back up incremental data changes and the boot volume. "If there is a problem, they can go to a remote site with diskless servers, boot off the SAN, bring up Windows or NetWare, bring up the application, and they'll be ready," Winslow said.