Case Study

Reinsurance Firm Compares Flash Storage Vendors to Optimize Data Analytics

A proof of concept in the WWT Advanced Technology Center tests performance and resiliency against organization’s data-intensive workloads

Our customers have come to expect excellence from WWT, and we delivered once again. – WWT Technical Architect

Challenge

A global reinsurance firm runs monthly analytics on a sizeable amount of data related to claims and other business metrics. This process involves the massive ingestion of data at the end of every month followed by an equally large write-out of data following analysis and reporting.

Recognizing that their situation was an ideal use case for flash storage, the firm decided it was time to evaluate leading vendors. To do so effectively, it was critical that they had a way to compare like-for-like performance against their specific workloads.

Solution

As a trusted resource, we were asked to facilitate the comparison of four flash solutions: NetApp AFF8060, EMC XtremIO, Pure M50 and Violin 7300. We worked with these OEMs to acquire and configure the necessary hardware before the test.

We used our Flash Lab within our Advanced Technology Center (ATC) that already had two-brick ExtremIO and the AFF8060. We then coordinated with Pure and Violin to deliver and configure their solution. The Flash Lab includes a pair of MDF switches, a UCS domain consisting of two VCT 48 fabric interconnects and three B Series UCS blades, each running as a single VM for testing. Btest was used for workload simulation.

Reinsurance Firm Compares Flash Storage Vendors to Optimize Data Analytics

This proof of concept (POC) consisted of three test conditions:

  1. A generic VDI workload
  2. A generic virtualized server workload
  3. Specific workload that ingested a massive dataset from an ERP database, and then wrote the data back out.

Additionally, the POC tested a mixed load for resiliency comparisons. During the week-long test, our engineers modified the environment by pulling drives and powering components on and off to test I/O resiliency against the established baseline performance benchmark.

Conclusion

While the POC was led by our technical staff, the customer and OEM representatives were on site during the engagement. The POC was conducted in two phases over a one week period. The first phase tested NetApp and EMC ExtremIO; a second phase tested the identical test parameters against Pure and Violin.

The test results provided the customer with an objective assessment of the performance they can expect in their environment, and the organization was provided with a full report of test results that they can use as they consider a flash deployment to enhance their ability to analyze massive data sets.

Reinsurance Firm Compares Flash Storage Vendors to Optimize Data Analytics 2

Business outcomes as a result of this POC include:

  1. Confidence in Decision: By comparing four solutions in a controlled testing environment, the organization was able to select an optimal solution with confidence
  2. Quality Assurance: The POC provided the customer with assurance of that the solution selected would meet VDI, virtualized server and ERP database workloads
  3. Risk Reduction: A rigorous testing plan ensured the organization wouldn’t deploy an underperforming solution