Fibre in the storage diet's fine for Oztion

Online auctioneer Oztion has upgraded from direct-attach storage to a fibre channel SAN, defying vendor predictions that small businesses will favour IP storage.

Online auctioneer Oztion has upgraded its storage infrastructure, moving away from direct-attach storage from IBM to a new EMC SAN.

Oztion General Manager Philip Druce says the company receives 1 million page views each day, which generates 65 million databases transactions. A purely online business, the company's ability to deliver those pages to customers at speed is a critical element of its operations, as a fast, easy-to-use website is more likely to inspire customer loyalty than a site that offers a poor experience.

Yet the company's storage infrastructure was not helping it to deliver the kind of experience that would delight customers and help it to grow.

"We started with one server with local storage," Druce recalls. "Because we have a lot of read/ write traffic storage became a bottleneck."

The company optimised its databases in an attempt to improve performance, but eventually realised its storage systems would need attention too.

"We adopted direct-attach storage," Druce says. "We got a RAID card for the server, bought a storage array and attached it to the server. We tried to make it faster and faster."

As traffic to the company's site increased this arrangement again proved inadequate.

"It got to the point where we needed a much higher performance storage system," Druce says, with the choice of the EMC product driven by its superior performance compared to rival products, thanks largely to the fast I/O afforded by its use of fibre channel.

Druce acknowledges that it is unusual for a small business to adopt fibre channel, given vendors promotion of IP storage and its associated network simplicity as ideal for smaller businesses looking to improve their storage infrastructure. For Oztion, however, fibre channel was viable because it did not need to implement a channel network.

"We can connect four servers to the SAN directly," Druce says. "We are using fibre channel direct, so the HBA cards straight into the back of the SAN. We do not need a switch so there is no need to worry about zoning and such that goes with it."

That simplicity has given the company confidence to take on a SAN without the associated need for new networking skills.

"We will probably have to do switches later on, but for the moment it is easy to operate," Druce says.

For now, the company is pleased with the performance of its new SAN.

"Our database is 100GB and growing all the time," Druce says. "We have dedicated 600GB in the storage array specifically for the database and another 600GB for backups and other data."

"We knew we would have the capacity to store the data, so the real benefit is the performance. We are so much faster than we used to be and we think that makes a difference to users on the site."

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