Marisa Cabral

How the World’s No. 1 School of International Business Aced their Storage Refresh by Avoiding Vendor Lock-In and High Costs

Data centers represent the lifeblood of any college or university. So ultimately, they can come with high expectations.

But, can you imagine how much higher those expectations are when it’s for the world’s No. 1-ranked school of international business?

Located in Glendale, Arizona, Thunderbird School of Global Management (a unit of Arizona State University Knowledge Enterprise) is not only the world’s No. 1-ranked school of international business, but the oldest and largest in the United States too.

Therefore, there are some aspects to their IT infrastructure that are just non-negotiable in order for storage to grow cost-effectively. And unfortunately, prior to Thunderbird’s software-defined storage (SDS) revamp, their infrastructure was unable to support many of these needs.

Thunderbird’s IT Challenge

Hardware, capacity and growth; these were just some of the main issues Thunderbird dealt with in their data center.

For example, these challenges included dependencies on expensive hardware such as an aging SAN controller, storage devices that were facing “end of life” from their vendor and high data storage growth.

So, how did Thunderbird solve their dilemma?

Reducing Storage Costs

The first step in the right direction was for Thunderbird to open up its purchasing options and free itself from vendor lock-in.

And since the school wanted to protect its existing investment, they still kept NetApp running – however, IT has been able to modernize its overall storage and has moved all mission-critical storage to an SDS platform.

Not only did this improve their infrastructure, but the cost was only a fraction of what they would have spent for the upgrade path from the incumbent vendor –  that’s 40% of what the installed SAN controller would have cost to upgrade.

Johan ReinaIda, Senior Director Network Infrastructure and Support Services at Thunderbird explained, “We saved 60% on our storage upgrade – based on the quote from our original vendor, NetApp…We replaced all parts of the SAN – a total revamp, including disks, whereas the previous vendor option was to replace mostly the controllers. This was the overwhelming reason we went the DataCore route – that and no vendor lock-in for storage.”

We saved 60% on our storage upgrade – based on the quote from our original vendor, NetApp…We replaced all parts of the SAN – a total revamp, including disks, whereas the previous vendor option was to replace mostly the controllers. This was the overwhelming reason we went the DataCore route – that and no vendor lock-in for storage.

Thanks to this SDS transition, not only did Thunderbird receive the whopping 60% of cost savings relative to the entrenched SAN vendor, but in addition they now have the agility and flexibility they need; which are factors that truly make for a successful infrastructure.

So how does reducing costs make for agile and successful storage, you may ask? Well, you’re in luck because we have the answers – thanks to many cost reductions, Thunderbird’s infrastructure also improved in the following areas:

  • Substantially reducing capital and operating expenses associated with storage.
  • Extending the life of storage investments and skipping expensive refresh cycles; there is now no more software throw-away.
  • Avoiding costly hardware lock­ in and opening doors to more attractive alternatives from competing suppliers.

Increasing Performance Times

In addition to cost reductions, the IT department is now reporting a 3-4 times performance increase in response times of the storage for its virtual machines (VMs). And with performance increases, come even more benefits like the following:

  • Reduced downtime
  • More business productivity

ReinaIda explained that a high availability (HA) implementation across two different data centers that are metro­clustered across the campus means that he fully expects to experience less downtime, which was important to Thunderbird as this is was not something they experienced when they had an HA metro cluster from NetApp. “We have already done two upgrades (post-install) without any downtime to our Internal Cloud (the VMware environment),” added ReinaIda.

Thunderbirds Final Thoughts

Looking back on it, Thunderbird is definitely happy with the decision they’ve made in choosing DataCore SANsymphony – so much so, they rated their SDS experience as “Excellent” and a 5/5 due to just two of the main benefits; reducing storage costs and increasing performance.

ReinaIda reflected that DataCore is paving the way as far as making its infrastructure more resilient through storage that is software-defined. He noted, “Due to the software-defined storage approach of DataCore, we now no longer have storage vendor lock-in, which gives us greater purchasing power and we can grow cost-effectively as needed using the cost/performance metrics needed at the time of growth. Plus, additional functionality such as auto-tiering has added to the performance increases we have seen.”

Due to the software-defined storage approach of DataCore, we now no longer have storage vendor lock-in, which gives us greater purchasing power and we can grow cost-effectively…

For more information and feedback from the Senior Director of Network Infrastructure and Support Services, download the detailed Thunderbird School of Global Management case study!


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