LMN Architects Achieves 3X the Capacity in Half the Rack Space with ioControl

“We looked at the brand names, but wanted something that pushed the technology envelope. I thought Nimble was where we'd end up, but our reseller, Strategic Hardware, turned us onto ioControl hybrid storage. The more we looked, the more appealing the innovative design and affordability became."

—Tim Rice, AIA
IT Director


LMN Architects uses ioControl Hybrid Storage to get the capacity and performance its graphically-intensive environment needs in a small footprint.

Customer Problem

Solution Focus

  • VMware vSphere 5.1
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008, 2008 R3
  • Microsoft Exchange 2010
  • CAD, Building Information Modeling, 3D visualization, and Adobe files
     

Summary of Benefits

  • Almost 3X the capacity in half the rack space of EqualLogic
  • Up to 20X reduction in latency

Located in Seattle and founded in 1979, LMN provides design services in architecture, urban design, and interiors for a wide variety of public and private clients. The IT team supports 100+ employees, all with graphically-intensive, performance-sensitive data requirements. “We have demanding users who need reliable access to complex files and digital models,” said Tim Rice, IT Director at LMN. “On any given day, someone may be here around the clock. The users work with very large files; they need the space and the performance to complete their tasks without restrictions.”

Rice and Mike Cook, System Administrator at LMN, were relying on four EqualLogic arrays, purchased over a several year period, to support their environment. At the time of purchase, LMN intended to use two of the EqualLogic arrays for primary storage and two as onsite replication targets. As the storage requirements of the firm grew, three of the arrays were dedicated to primary storage and one was reserved for replication. 

The team was consistently under pressure to provide the storage space required to support the volume of content—including CAD, Building Information Modeling (BIM), 3D rendering/visualization, and Adobe files—generated by designers. “Capacity was a significant pain point for us,” said Rice. “We were constantly scrambling for storage space and had to think twice each time we needed to spin up a new server.”

Snapshotting and replication consumed the majority of LMN’s storage capacity. “Of our 28TBs of raw capacity (after factoring for RAID), we only had 8TBs useable for production,” said Cook. “The rest of the EqualLogic capacity was being consumed by replication reserves and snapshotting.”

Rice and Cook decided the time had come to invest in a new storage solution that could provide the capacity and performance needed for their environment. “We didn’t want to buy yesterday’s technology,” said Rice. “We wanted the new storage system to last at least three to five years, providing enough capacity and performance to ensure we wouldn’t outgrow it in the near term. From a performance perspective, whatever solution we adopted needed to offer enough headroom to allow us to embrace VDI in the next year.”

LMN began researching their options, considering both relative newcomers and legacy vendors. “We looked at the brand names, but we were looking for something newer and shinier,” said Rice. To that end, they considered Nexsan and Nimble Storage amongst others. “I thought Nimble was where we’d end up, but our reseller, Strategic Hardware, turned us onto ioControl hybrid storage,” said Rice. “The more we looked, the more appealing the innovative design and affordability became.”


ioControl Solution

LMN purchased Fusion ioControl hybrid storage with a capacity expansion pack for a total of 80TBs raw capacity. Cook and Rice moved their entire infrastructure, including 20 virtual servers on VMware vSphere 5.1, file storage, web and print servers, accounting and several other Microsoft SQL Server databases, and Microsoft Exchange servers, to the new storage.

The 80TBs of Fusion-io capacity is housed in 6U of rack space, compared to 28TBs in 12U with EqualLogic. “It’s really nice to not be worried about capacity,” said Cook.  “Plus, we don’t have to give performance a second thought. I like the next-generation hybrid approach, getting everything out in front of the controllers with PCIe flash memory from Fusion-io. With EqualLogic, we experienced latencies in the range of 20-40ms. Once I tuned the ioControl storage for our environment, we’re experiencing latency of 2ms and below.”


20X
Improvement

Maximum Storage Latency


With Fusion-io

2 ms

Without Fusion-io

40 ms

LMN plans to deploy virtual desktop technology in the next year, leveraging both the capacity and performance available with the ioControl hybrid storage. “Because of the graphical nature of our applications, we won’t deploy VDI until the technology is available to address graphical requirements,” said Rice. “That said, we’re moving in that direction—we'll begin with knowledge workers.”

Cook sees a valuable role for ioControl’s storage Quality of Service (QoS) capabilities when LMN roles out VDI. “The ability to consolidate VDI with our other applications – without our primary applications suffering a performance hit from VDI boot storms – is of real value to us,” said Cook. Today, he has Microsoft Exchange and file storage set up as mission-critical applications, with SQL Server as business-critical. 

“We have all our eggs in one basket,” said Rice. “Our users are very deadline driven and uptime is hugely important.” In addition to LMN’s positive impression of the product, their interaction with the support team has reinforced the favorable experience. “Support has been great,” said Cook. “Follow-up and follow-through has been great. They’ve proactively assisted us in configuring the system and addressed our minor issues more than satisfactorily.”



3:1 Storage Consolidation


Fusion Powered Software Stack


LMN Employee
MS Exchange 2010
MS SQL Server 2008 R2
NTFS
MS Windows Server
2003-2012
VSL
ioDrive 1.2TB

System Before (12U)


  • 4 x 3U Dell EqualLogic Arrays

System After (6U)


  • Fusion ioControl Hybrid Storage
  • 45TB Capacity Pack
  • n5-100 32TB
  • ioDrive 1.2TB
40X
Improvement

Performance Density


With Fusion-io

 

Without Fusion-io

 

20X lower latency, 1/2 footprint. 20 * 2 = 4-X improvement in performance density.


Summary

LMN Architects realized the following benefits after implementing the Fusion-io solution:

  • Almost 3X the capacity in half the rack space of EqualLogic
  • Up to 20X reduction in latency

About LMN Architects

Founded in 1979, LMN Architects is a leader in the design of convention centers, performing arts facilities, higher education buildings, and mixed-use projects.  In addition, LMN offers interior and urban design services.  Its projects are extremely diverse in terms of project type, scale, environment, and user community.  Significant projects include Vancouver Convention Center, UW Foster School of Business, Seattle Public Library, and Aspira Residential Tower.