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Hybrid Storage Addresses VDI Woes at Bank of Stockton

Creating a virtual desktop infrastructure environment causes performance issues that are resolved by adopting a Tegile hybrid storage array.

With only about 30% of the Bank of Stockton's organization transitioned to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in early 2013, lunch hour transactions nearly ground branch operations to a halt. "Tellers couldn't deposit checks, look up account balances or perform most normal activity," recalls Vincent Lo, VP of applications and support for the Stockton, Calif.-based institution.

An investigation showed that branch VDI traffic was overwhelming Stockton's existing storage-area network (SAN). This led to evaluating new, VDI-capable storage, beginning with options from the bank's existing vendor and two others. "Then, some colleagues recommended an emerging company called Tegile Systems," Lo says.

In a nutshell, Tegile's solution is part of a new breed of hybrid options. In this case, a SAN and NAS (network-attached storage) hybrid utilizing a combination of solid-state disks (SSDs), DRAM and Flash memory. According to Tegile, it includes proprietary virtualization, de-duplication and compression routines that significantly reduce the amount of capacity required, compared to other options.

[The growing use of virtualization, shared and cloud-based services is bring risks along with the benefits: Survey: Most Employees Are Unaware of Their Company's Data Security Protocols]

Course Correction

"We added Tegile's solution to our evaluation," says Lo. "After a quantitative comparison, our existing vendor scored slightly higher. In April 2013, we were ready to sign a contract with that vendor when Tegile came in with a new proposal. We decided to change course."

During the ensuing negotiations the Tegile engineering team was confident that Stockton would only require about 3TB of storage to support the bank's total number VDI incidences. But, Lo's team calculated it would need about 8TB and made the investment.

By the time the Tegile integration began in June 2013, there were already two other significant initiatives underway. These included adoption of Cisco's Unified Computing System server architecture, virtualized with VMware, and deployment of a new Cisco data center switch.

As is common for multiple complex projects, an incompatibility issue surfaced. "Ultimately, the problem was isolated to the Tegile," says Lo. "They quickly stepped up and fixed it. After 25 years in the IT business, I can honestly say Tegile provided some of the best technical support I've ever experienced."

This has continued to be true. For example, after completing the migration from the existing SAN onto Tegile in July 2013, another challenge arose. "We'd configured our VDI infrastructure for persistent images, which proved incompatible with the initial storage configuration Tegile recommended," says Lo. "However, Tegile quickly provided a resolution."

Yet another issue cropped up once the VDI spin-up was completed and the bank's antivirus application began the first full scan of infrastructure. "Everything slowed down," says Lo. "But Tegile helped us understand we needed to divide our VDI images into groups rather than scan them simultaneously."

"Since then," he adds, "we've learned the antivirus scanning issue in a VDI environment is the same no matter which storage solution you're using. And, the same holds true for Windows updates -- it's best to divide them into groups and stagger them, too."

Room to Grow

Regardless, the benefits from Tegile abound. Beyond eliminating VDI availability and performance issues, Stockton now has room to grow. "Tegile's data reduction claims were accurate and then some," Lo reports. "Now we have a capacity surplus."

Additionally, Tegile's storage administration tools are so intuitive that the networking team at Stockton no longer needs to call upon storage vendor technicians. "We don't have a dedicated SAN administrator," Lo says. "Before, we didn't touch our SAN -- we called the vendor. With Tegile, we're self-sufficient."

Moving forward, Stockton intends to leverage Tegile to establish an active/active business continuity strategy. "We've purchased another Zebi system as well as additional Cisco UCS and switch instances plus VMware," affirms Lo. "We plan to complete a new distant data center later this year."

And the bank's 140 persistent virtual desktops? They're humming along. "You know," confides Lo, "I rarely agree to speak publicly about our vendor experiences. But, with Tegile, I appreciate that they're honest -- everything they've told us has proven to be true."

Snapshot:

Institution: Bank of Stockton (Stockton, Calif.).

Assets: $2.2 billion.

Business Challenge: Resolve VDI performance issues by adopting a compatible storage solution.

Solution: Tegile Systems (Newark, Calif.); Zebi SSD Storage Array.

Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio

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