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After experiencing buyer's remorse from a storage hardware refresh three years ago, concrete building supply company Prosoco Inc. implemented Maxta MxSP hyper-converged storage to help it overcome persistent bottlenecks on an Imation Nexsan SAN. The SAN interfered with the performance and subsequent recovery of Dell hosts running Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors.
Prosoco's Nexsan SAN provided an iSCSI target for Hyper-V, SQL Server database servers and low-end NAS devices. Two Nexsan arrays handled daily backups at Prosoco headquarters in Lawrence, Kan.
Instead of adding a third iSCSI host last year, Prosoco IT Director Tim Norris looked into hyper-converged platforms that unify compute, networking, storage and virtualization resources in a single appliance. He chose the Maxta MxSP hyper-converged storage software platform, which captures unassigned storage and aggregates it as a virtualized shared pool under a single namespace.
While Nutanix and SimpliVity -- widely considered the two leading hyper-convergence vendors -- sell their software on branded hardware, Maxta markets MxSP as a virtual storage appliance or prepackaged on commodity storage servers under its MaxDeploy validated reference architecture. Its deployment is similar to VMware's Virtual SAN technology.
Prosoco, which makes concrete building and cleaning products for the construction industry, chose a MaxDeploy configuration of 15 Dell PowerEdge R730xd rack servers to provide 20 TB of production storage. Along with Maxta storage, Prosoco is swapping hosts from Hyper-V to VMware.
Maxta MxSP chosen for ease of deployment, management
Norris explored hyper-converged technology to avoid the cost and maintenance associated with a typical SAN upgrade.
Tim NorrisIT director, Prosoco
"Adding a third host was part of our plan all along," he noted. "We were getting close to full capacity on storage and needed to add more compute. As I looked at hyper-convergence, I started wishing we hadn't just spent all this money on other equipment."
Norris declined to specify his budget for the hyper-convergence upgrade, but said Maxta storage was not the least-expensive option. The company also weighed expanding its Nexsan SAN, switching to a Dell EqualLogic SAN or adding SimpliVity's OmniCube hyper-converged system.
Norris said ease of use was a key differentiator, as was Maxta MxSP's wizard-based deployment to get the migration underway quickly. Prosoco's three Maxta nodes each have 9 TB of storage, which Maxta presents as a 27 TB pool of raw capacity.
"I don't have to worry about building LUNs like I do with our iSCSI SAN. It just shows up as one giant hunk of storage. I just go into VMware and decide where it needs to go," Norris said.
He also liked Maxta's use of solid-state drives (SSDs) to cache at least one local copy of data for fast reads. "They give you a lot of the features you get with newer SAN technologies, like deduplication and compression. And they utilize SSDs, so you get good I/O performance. Our existing SAN was just spinning disk, and I wanted to bring solid-state into the mix," Norris said.
Adding Maxta reshapes backup strategy
Maxta MxSP writes data to at least two hosts for redundant access. By shifting primary storage to Maxta, Prosoco expects to repurpose the older Dell servers as backup targets, leading to the likely retirement of QNAP NAS appliances.
Norris said the company plans to add Veeam Software's Availability Suite to manage backups for its 30 virtual machines. In addition, Prosoco plans to obtain a second physical office in 2016, at which time Norris plans to replicate the firm's Maxta environment.
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Maxta MxSP used by Prosoco