Proprietary storage: 'Why reinvent the wheel?'

Some companies may have to develop unique storage technologies to meet their specific needs, but a SaaS provider found that proprietary storage arrays were sufficient.

The reasoning behind proprietary storage arrays is straightforward: Why invest the time and money to develop technology from scratch when you can buy storage for virtual servers right off the shelf? Although a small minority of companies may be forced to develop unique technologies to fit their own niche requirements, most organizations are simply not in the technology business.

For Cvent Inc., a business Software as a Service provider headquartered in McLean, Va., the notion of developing its own storage platforms in-house or trying to massage "open" systems into its environment was simply out of the question.

"It's a lot easier -- why reinvent the wheel?" said Dwayne Sye, Cvent's chief information officer. "For me to try and replicate that internally would take a ridiculous amount of development."

Sye faced the challenge of updating older storage platforms that didn't meet Cvent's internal needs or the hosting needs of its clients. Still, there were numerous proprietary storage vendors poised to offer better management, stronger support, superior performance and far greater scalability than existing storage systems allowed. Sye decided on 3PAR InServ arrays, allowing a mix of Fibre Channel and SATA storage growth from 10 TB to 105 TB in just a few years.

Several advanced features met Cvent's business needs. For example, the proprietary systems allow dynamic changes in RAID geometry -- moving from RAID 1 to RAID 5 on the fly -- and snapshot features that slashed backup time and allow far greater storage availability.

"There's this internal expectation for 24/7 services," Sye said. "Using snapshot technology, we're able to take almost instantaneous snapshots at a point in time."

Thin provisioning further reduces storage needs, and everything works properly within Cvent's VMware environment.

Like most technology professionals, Sye is concerned about vendor lock-in, but the ready availability of competing storage systems often mitigates resulting vulnerabilities.

"If I start to see that [the vendor's] price/performance equation is getting worse, that's the time that I start looking at other vendors," he said.

Sye also has a close eye on the future of Cvent's proprietary storage platforms, expecting storage demands to double in the next few years. He said he also hopes to take better advantage of the storage array's storage area network functionality to facilitate the transfer of huge files without clogging the corporate network with excessive traffic. In the final analysis, such capabilities would have been virtually impossible to develop internally, making proprietary vendors the only practical choice.


This was first published in September 2010

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