Data deduplication reduces storage requirements: Law firm case study

One large law firm objected to document storage requirements. Along with virtualization, storage consolidation and data deduplication overruled.

Law firms deal with reams of documents and their proper retention, making them perfect candidates for storage consolidation

through virtualization.

When a firm has multiple locations across several continents, document storage requirements, capacity, retrieval performance and overall management can pose serious issues for administrators. Data deduplication and storage consolidation may be the answer to these troubles.

Storage requirements became a problem at Paul Hastings, a large corporate law firm headquartered in Los Angeles with half of the firm’s 18 locations outside of the United States. The distribution of legacy applications, older EMC equipment and disparate local disk storage made the management of about half a petabyte of data extremely difficult.

“It was just an enormous burden,” said Searl Tate, director of engineering at Paul Hastings.

More than 60 million active documents also created a nightmarish backup problem, Tate said. “In Los Angeles alone, there are some 50 to 60 TBs of data change a week that we have to manage.” Even more pressing, the storage requirements were having an effect on performance and impairing the ability of attorneys to get quick access to any document from any site. “Our storage wasn’t working the way our firm worked before [storage reduction],” Tate said.

The solution took on several different dimensions. The first was re-organizing the way that data was stored across the organization and consolidating documents in hub offices like Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Next was a move to VMware virtualization, replacing about 800 physical servers with virtual machines on only about 100 physical server hosts. A third effort involved replacing legacy EMC and JBOD disk pools with NetApp 6080 storage platforms that include primary storage data deduplication capabilities.

“In Los Angeles, we have four 6080 heads running in the typical ‘active-active’ configuration, a single set of 6080s in New York City, and elsewhere they’re using 3070s,” Tate said.

The impact for Paul Hastings has been substantial. According to Tate, the combination of storage consolidation and virtualization efforts—particularly the implementation of data deduplication—has reduced almost half a PB of storage to roughly 300 TB across all of the firm’s regional hub offices. Not only did this reduction in storage requirements save storage expenditures, but the storage consolidation and new platforms have also improved performance, which translated into better user experiences. The use of NetApp SnapMirror software also enhanced backup and recovery efforts.

Storage consolidation efforts at Paul Hastings are continuing. Eventually, Tate expects to enhance data management and protection even further by possibly consolidating to even fewer offices.

“We’d probably see this consolidated to just two main data centers,” Tate said. “I don’t know how long that will take, but that’s the direction we’re headed.” 

Stephen J. Bigelow, a senior technology editor in the Data Center and Virtualization Media Group at TechTarget Inc., has more than 20 years of technical writing experience in the PC/technology industry. He holds a bachelor of science in electrical engineering, along with CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+ and Server+ certifications and has written hundreds of articles and more than 15 feature books on computer troubleshooting, including Bigelow’s PC Hardware Desk Reference and Bigelow’s PC Hardware Annoyances. Contact him at sbigelow@techtarget.com.

This was first published in July 2011

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