In search of performance, efficiency and security: ASP-One's quest for a robust storage solution
To launch Biz@Large, an application portal, ASP-One needed a large-scale storage system that could serve thousands of online users.
By Linda Christie
Unlimited bandwidth, a secure data center, massive parallel storage server architecture, 24x7x365 availability and immediate scalability -- that's what ASP-One's IT department needed before the company could launch Biz@Large, a unique application portal that hosts Web sites, software applications and professional content for small to medium-sized businesses.
"We started to architect a data center at our own facility," said Henri Ganancia, CEO. "We soon recognized, however, that architecting a bullet-proof data center is a full-time job costing millions of dollars. There's no way that a medium-sized business such as ours can afford to do this."
A more cost-effective route, collocating ASP-One's servers at an IBM data center, was chosen. "With that, we also gained access to unlimited bandwidth," says Ganancia. "They can burst up to 100 megabits per second, a capability we could not have even purchased on a private contract with UUNet or AT&T."
Having resolved the connectivity and data center issues, the next task was finding a storage architecture capable of storing and serving applications and data on demand to thousands of online users. "We looked at a number of enterprise storage contenders," Ganancia said. "We needed to find a high-performance solution that could centralize our customers' data as well as provide very intensive access to databases and stored information. We also wanted a scalable solution that could grow with our business, without the need for expensive hardware upgrades."
ASP-One's Windows 2000 environment runs on a large number of IBM Netfinity servers dedicated to niche and customized software, including hosted Web sites. Biz@Large offers collaborative software such as Microsoft Exchange 2000 and Outlook, as well as Office 2000, Great Plains Accounting, Timesolv, HRIS-Pro, Virtual HR and FrontPage 2000 for Web page design.
After exploring storage solutions offered by a number of enterprise vendors, they selected IBM's Enterprise Storage server that uses 18 gigabyte drives together with an IBM 14-slot DLT-changer with a DLT 7000 tape drive for backup. Code-named Shark, the storage server is more than an array of hard disks. Shark architecture can support up to 32 direct host connections, all of which can be transferring data concurrently at 40MB/second. IBM claims average response times can be reduced to as low as 12.4 milliseconds, a threefold increase in performance.
"We chose IBM's Shark for several reasons," Ganancia said. "The architecture design was more modern, the microcode is written in the industry-standard C language, not a proprietary one, and it was far less expensive." ASP-One also liked Shark's scalability capabilities, he added. "We can put up to 11 terabytes of data in one configuration, without having to upgrade to a different model."
Being that ASP-One was one of the first implementations of Shark in a multi-company environment, it took a bit more time to roll out than a single-company implementation would have. That additional time was needed to configure applications for multiple companies, set up user access permissions and establish other security measures required to ensure each subscriber's privacy.
"We were up and running in three to four weeks," Ganancia said. That schedule complied with the original estimate that IBM gave ASP-One. It was also many months less than the time it would have taken ASP-One to build a secure data center on its own. "And because we purchased all of our servers from IBM, I feel that we have more leverage as a customer," said Ganancia.
Deploying a Storage Area Network via a secure collocation service has also bolstered ASP-One's business offering, "It's a great comfort knowing that we can meet our service level and performance guarantees for our customers, as well as our marketing efforts."
For additional information about ASP-One and Biz@Large, visit their Web site.
For additional information on Enterprise Storage Servers from IBM, visit their Web site.
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