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How Sify Boosts Speed, Performance with Flash Storage

INDIA - MAY 08: V Sivaramakrishnan, President, Sify Portals, poses at office, in Chennai, India. Potrait (Photo by G Keshavraj/The India Today Group/Getty Images)

Flash storage is extremely fast, and greatly reliable. The all-electronic storage device that can retain information even when the power is off is also becoming a technology of choice for several smart enterprises – who are looking to transform their business. IT solutions and services company, Sify Technologies is one such entity that noticed a marked difference in its performance and efficiency when it revisited its storage infrastructure – replacing solid state disks (SSDs) with the flash storage system.

The big dilemma

The Chennai-based Sify Technologies enables enterprises to accelerate data center modernization and transformation. Sify’s infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offers fundamental components of IT infrastructure, such as compute, storage, network, security, data protection and analytics, and comes in all three variants including public, private and hybrid Cloud.

As more enterprises are moving on from testing cloud services to actually deploying business-critical applications, the company started witnessing a rapid shift in their business requirements. The bigger challenge came with greater hybrid cloud demand, as more enterprises started to leverage hybrid cloud deploy ments with production and business-critical applications. As a result, there was a considerable change in the nature of workload requirements, from small capacities to extremely high capacities and high IOPS (input/output operations per second) in the cloud.  

Needless to say, Sify realized the need to reinforce its storage infrastructure to meet the challenges posed by the sector, especially as more and more workloads are ported to the cloud.

The company at first consolidated its storage landscape with Hitachi storage infrastructure to gain cost-effective, scalable and supe- rior performance as well as best-in-class availability. However, gaps in the storage infrastructure were still visible while servicing business-critical high IOPS with a small data footprint.

This pushed Sify to go for large number of spindles or solid-state disks (SSDs). However, these were low on disk space and hence were an indirect liability on data center’s resources (costs, space and power). Moreover, the increasing volume of SSDs had a markedly adverse effect on the storage  controller performance.

Sify was quick to understand that the growing demands of consumers and market can only be met by a storage solution that is not only cost-effective, but also a perfect blend of capacity and performance.

The Solution

From Sify’s point of view, an important requirement for the new storage solution was that it should be able to cater to the needs of the new segment of high-IOPS clients. Sify wanted a solution that would make the most of the existing storage infrastructure and utilize existing software features, such as storage tiering, cloning and replication. It was also looking for a solution that was faster, but would not be a liability on the data center’s resources or more than a minimal impact on the storage controllers.

At the same time, it was not keen on any storage infrastructure solution that warranted additional skill sets or man- agement efforts.

Sify’s Business Head for Cloud and Managed Services, Adarsh Singh, explained, “With its resolve to be able to cater to the growing demands of high-performance clients, Sify started looking for definite, convincing and cost-effective solutions.”

“From our point of view, the potential storage solution was to be scalable and to be able to support the growth and evolving needs of both Sify as well as its customers,” he added.

As the cloud services marketplace is very cost sensitive, Sify was only interested in cost-effective solutions that would help the company win lucrative deals. For example, Sify abstained from investing in a separate all-flash array; the company realized that an all-flash array would not fit in perfectly with the existing storage infrastructure, which is seamlessly integrated with its cloud stack. A new array would also mean investment in new controllers and software, which inadvertently would require more management efforts and funds.

Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) understood the evolving storage needs of Sify and its clients, and thus proposed Hitachi Accelerated Flash (HAF) to help Sify meet the requirements of high-IOPS and small-data-footprint clients. Hitachi Accelerated Flash met all the criteria set forth for evaluation by Sify Technologies, as it came as a simple solution that takes very little time to procure, implement and go live.

As it was an upgrade to the existing storage infrastructure, all the software features, such as dynamic tiering and replication, were extended to the upgraded disks as well. Very little data center space and power are needed to support this flash enclosure. More importantly, absolutely no downtime was required for installation and configuration of the HAF flash enclosure and drives. With the expertise and experience demonstrated by Hitachi Data Systems in the previous projects, Sify had more confidence on this solution and its service capabilities.

HDS GSS [Hitachi Data Systems Global Services Solutions] carried out the implementation in a seamless fashion and in a very short span. The best part is that we needed no additional skill enhancement as the new flash modules are managed using the existing tools. We couldn’t have asked for more, informed Ravi Maguluri, Sr. Vice President for Cloud Initiatives, Sify.

Fast, Reliable, Efficient

The solution consists of a 2U storage drive enclosure with Hitachi Accelerated Flash flash module drives (FMD). A FMD is larger than a traditional solid-state drive (SSD) and delivers 3-4 times the IOPS performance. It is more space efficient, with 2x-4x the terabytes per rack unit density. It is 32% more power efficient, and is one-third lower in cost per terabyte when compared to a similarly configured solution using SSDs, which significantly helps the business interests of Sify.

The brain of the FMD controller is a custom-designed ASIC featuring a quad-core pro- cessor. This ASIC has the compute power needed to deliver innovative housekeeping management that eliminates performance bottlenecks at storage controller. It extends the error correcting code (ECC) to deliver robustness, manages wear leveling to heighten endurance, and adaptively refreshes data to secure data integrity.

The other huge benefit was that with the implementation of FMDs, Sify can now offer cloud services to diversified set of customers. Sify cloud infrastructure is now equipped with a high-performance and highly scalable storage solution that can take on the IOPS hungry application workloads. The flash storage solution from Hitachi Data Systems brings significant advantages to Sify on both business and technical fronts.

ASICs on the flash module drives handle the housekeeping activities efficiently and liberate the storage controllers from performance challenges. This helps Sify to extract more performance out of the existing storage infrastructure.  On the whole, the new storage solutions have helped Sify achieve greater customer satisfaction, boost sales, control costs, monitor and manage storage tasks without additional efforts or tools.

“New business models and renewed competition is forcing organizations of all sizes to revisit their business strategy,” said Gaurav Sharma, Research Manager, Enterprise Computing, IDC India.

“A key component of this is the structured and unstructured data that needs to be analysed across departments to contribute to this strategy, marketing programs, product positioning and customer delight. This is pushing organizations to revisit their storage architectures to accommodate more efficient technologies, hybrid arrays and storage management tools to be able to support this transition,” informed Sharma.

Sify Product Manager for Cloud and Managed Services, Jaiprakash Pherwani mentioned, “Hitachi Data Systems has provided us with first-class storage solutions that will help us stay competitive in our business offerings. These storage solutions are highly reliable and flexible, and have empowered us to smoothly expand our portfolio.

“With the support of the superior storage infrastructure, we are sure we can come up with new offerings that we can take to the enterprise market,” summed up a confident Pherwani.

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