Adventures in Retail: EqualLogic PS Storage Arrays

Storage systems maker promises easy to deploy and manage SANs; retailers take notice.
Whether supporting thousands of remote employees, or tracking consumer marketing data, retailers operate in challenging IT environments. To cope with data overload and other potential problems, they have to build dynamic storage environments. That’s why some retailers are turning to PS Series storage arrays by EqualLogic Inc. of Nashua, NH, as the foundation of an IP SAN.

Customers include Patagonia, a manufacturer of outdoor clothing and technical apparel based in Reno, NV. It grew out of a small company that made tools for climbers. Alpinism remains at the heart of a worldwide business that still makes clothes for climbing, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, fly fishing, paddling and trail running.

Patagonia migrated from its older direct-attached architecture to a SAN based on the EqualLogic PS200E to strengthen supply chain and product lifecycle management processes. Since implementing EqualLogic’s SAN, Patagonia has successfully transitioned from tape backup to a disk-based backup method.

“Our deployment of EqualLogic has been what was promised: short configuration times, up and running in minutes and exceptional ease-of-use and management capabilities that help us grow our storage networks as needed,” says Tammy Barrett, network engineer at Patagonia. “The EqualLogic solution provides our IT team with a level of storage network flexibility and management that we never experienced with DAS. We can now implement IT initiatives that were previously impossible due to complexity and cost issues.”

According to John Joseph, vice president of marketing at EqualLogic, the PS Series architecture is fundamentally different from traditional storage arrays. It uses patented load balancing and data management technology to take advantage of all of the system’s resources to optimize performance and simplify the user experience. Data protection features are baked in, like replication and flexible snapshots.

“The key features of our storage products are their ease of use, performance and data protection,” says Joseph. “Practically any user can set up an EqualLogic array in under 20 minutes, can manage a system from one GUI and can provision volumes in under a minute.

Couple of Flavors

This EqualLogic technology comes in a couple of flavors. As well as the PS200E (used by Patagonia), it also offers the 100E. ZOOTS, the largest dry cleaner on the East Coast, implemented the 100E. Surging growth and difficulty in managing an existing Fibre Channel SAN forced the change. Result: a system that was easier to use and easier to roll out across its 300,000+ customer base.

How do these EqualLogic units differ one to another? Basically, the PS100E and PS200E are the same unit from a software and functionality perspective. The only difference is storage capacity. The PS200E had more capacity than the PS100E: 5.6 Terabytes (TB) in the PS200E vs. 3.5 TB in the PS100E.

However, a recent change by EqualLogic’s drive supplier means the PS200E is no longer sold. As the supplier has upgraded its drive density, the company now only offers the 100E and a newer model known as the PS 300E Instead of 5.6 TB, the PS300E comes with 7.0TB of raw capacity.

Party America, a nationwide party supplies provider was among the first to deploy the 300E. This provided a 3x improvement in performance on its Oracle systems compared to its previous FC SAN.

“Buying any of our PS Series arrays is like having a full-time storage administrator, multiple racks of enterprise-class storage hardware, and bundles of enterprise storage management software packed into a 3U chassis,” says Joseph. “Our entry-level product comes with all of the advanced features of our high-end storage arrays.”

Joseph says the U.S. list price for the PS100E starts at around $35,000 and the PS300E starts at $56,000. He notes that the company most bumps into EMC and NetApp as competitors during the procurement phase.

In terms of a market sweet spot, he feels EqualLogic best serves the upper end of SMB and departments within the Fortune 500 category. Essentially, the product line addresses companies or divisions with 500 to 5,000 employees. Medium and large retailers fit into this category.

“The reason for this broad swath is that EqualLogic’s PS Series simplifies storage by providing reliable storage management that does not require extensive storage expertise or investment,” says Joseph. “The PS Series SANs are good for companies who want to: spend more time improving revenue-supporting systems, not managing storage; buy only what they need now with the option to easily scale later; and use readily available technologies and skills in TCP/IP to expand their storage infrastructure.”

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