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BlueShore Financial Puts Its Money on Flash for Storing Data

The boutique financial institution is moving to HPE's new Primera storage system because it has a scale-out architecture and is optimized for NVMe-based flash.

BlueShore Financial has survived and prospered for decades—through the savings and loan debacles of the 1980s and 1990s, through the financial crisis of 2007-2009 and through continued financial market instability. The boutique financial institution has succeeded where others have failed by providing high-touch, premium service to its 60,000 clients.

That type of service takes more than dedicated, knowledgeable personnel; it also requires fast and reliable access to data, the ability to analyze that data and the right technology to store the data.

"People tend to take for granted that applications will be available 100% of the time and that they will be able to get results from those applications quickly," said Ryan Burgess, BlueShore's manager of technology infrastructure. "In order to compete, we have to provide these capabilities without compromise."

For the past seven years or so, the Vancouver, British Columbia, company has stored and managed about 600 terabytes of mostly spinning disk on a pair of HPE 3PAR StoreServ 7000s and one HPE 3PAR StoreServ 8400. But the units are running out of space. At the same time, the company wants to move more heavily into the flash space as the cost ratio of flash to spinning disk starts declining.

Clearly, it was time for an upgrade. In addition to the capabilities of flash, Burgess said he was also looking for a storage infrastructure that could host multiple types of applications, since BlueShore Financial has a combination of SQL, VMware and Exchange-based databases, among others.

Taking It Up a Few Notches

Because BlueShore Financial had standardized on HPE/3PAR several years before, it made sense to consider HPE's new Primera, a storage architecture designed with storage-class memory and a scale-out architecture, and optimized for NVMe-based flash.

BlueShore plans to replace both the 7000 series at its head office data center and a similar unit at its second production site in a different province by the end of the year. It plans to replace the 8400 model within the next 18 months.

Because the Primera units are built with flash, the switch to HPE Primera also will allow BlueShore Financial to flip its ratio of flash versus spinning disk from 20/80 to about 80/20. It still needs spinning disk for large-scale applications that aren't used a lot but have large data sets and don't compress or deduplicate well. Over time, Burgess expects to use even more flash, especially for low-latency applications that would benefit from NVMe.

"Right now our NVMe usage for flash is very isolated at the system level because it hasn't been a good solution at the array level/shared storage space," Burgess said. "We're excited about the fact that Primera has storage-class memory, so it's designed to handle NVMe at the fabric level as well as at the flash array level. It's not so much about having a lot of throughput; it's about the reduction in latency that NVMe provides."

The team also looks forward to incorporating newer technologies like snapshotting, compression and deduplication, which the 7000 series storage arrays could not fully support. The 7000 series does offer deduplication, but it tends to tax the system fairly heavily, so the IT team has learned to avoid it. That means BlueShore isn't getting the kind of cost utilization it needs. It doesn't offer compression, which Burgess says is particularly important, since the company manages multiple SQL databases that are all multi-terabyte in size.

The high availability and performance Primera promises also will help BlueShore Financial continue to provide premium service to its customers.

"Whether it's development or quality assurance or other tools our staff needs to get their work done, it eventually has client impact," Burgess said. "So our staff needs to have their solutions available to them at all times. When we use Primera for production, disaster recovery, quality assurance, development and other applications, they guarantee 100% uptime. So we won't have to make compromises or choices to reduce the availability or performance of that tier for each of those environments."

The team also looked forward to moving forward with its use of HPE InfoSight, a predictive analytics platform that takes advantage of artificial intelligence. BlueShore Financial has been using InfoSight with its existing storage arrays on a test basis for about a year, but since InfoSight is baked into HPE Primera, Burgess expects the insights to be more useful.

"Even at the 3PAR level, InfoSight has started giving us some insights we can use. So far, the recommendations we've been getting from it have been configuration-related and not performance-related, which is where we'd like to get with it," he said.

Eventually, Burgess expects to be able to use InfoSight in many ways. For example, he would like to use it to identify, isolate and troubleshoot applications that may be impacting the performance of other applications. The company also expects to be able to use it to improve business intelligence simulations for predicting the next best product, analyze employee payment and determine business segments the company should pursue, among others.

"We look forward to being able to run multiple simulations on multiple data sets," he said. "Instead of asking one question and waiting for the answer, we want to be able to ask a lot of different questions and get a lot of different answers, and then do the analysis."

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