I recently talked with Patrick Donnelly, Porky Products' Senior Network Engineer, about their deployment of Infino. Here's a summary of that conversation.
SK: Hi Patrick, thanks for talking with me today about your use of Infinio. To start, tell me about Porky Products.
PD: Porky Products is one of the largest independent food distributors in the United States. We deliver over one million pounds of meat and seafood each day. We are headquartered in New Jersey and have an office in California.
SK: And what about your IT resources?
PD: We have 6 full-time employees, and we’ve standardized on Cisco UCS and IBM V7000 storage. For VMware, we have a stretch cluster between NJ and CA. We use a mix of Microsoft- and Linux-based applications such as Exchange and Pentaho.
SK: As I understand it, there was just one system that you weren’t able to virtualize based on its performance requirements.
PD: Yes. Our mission critical ERP system, which is SAP running on DB2, running on a standalone IBM server. Almost immediately after implementation, we realized that not only was it impossible to virtualize the system, but we needed to use local flash (in the form of Fusion I/O PCIe cards) to provide enough I/O.
SK: Was that a sustainable solution?
PD: Not really. To get the performance we needed, the whole database had to be on flash. This was going to be cost-prohibitive as the database grew.
SK: So what did you look at?
PD: Well, after seeing what it would cost to add more Fusion I/O cards, or other all-flash solutions, I started looking for alternatives. I looked at one server-side caching solution but it didn’t provide the performance we needed. But I thought Infinio looked promising.
SK: Tell me about the evaluation.
PD: We spun up a copy of the ERP database within the VMware environment, and tried it with Infinio. I really liked the evaluation – that it was fully functioning and I could really prove out whether it worked. We benchmarked between the production [physical and all-flash] configuration and the test [virtualized and hybrid RAM and flash] configuration.
SK: What kinds of tools did you use for that?
PD: We used iostat, to validate that the performance was there. Then zabbix to monitor disk I/O from the Linux kernel, and ST04, to monitor database response time from the SAP kernel.
SK: So it worked?
PD: Sure, but the real test was users running reports and seeing if they noticed a difference. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what the benchmarks say, it matters what the users think. It turned out that they didn’t notice a difference, so we had found a solution.
SK: That’s great. Tell me about how your rollout to production worked
PD: In addition to the newly-virtualized ERP system, we took advantage of Infinio’s VM-level acceleration for some additional applications. For example, Microsoft Exchange got a nice boost from Infinio.
SK: And since then?
PD: It basically runs itself. Retiring a host and replacing it with a new one was seamless. For my first upgrade, I chose to do it during scheduled downtime, but I could have run it during the workday – there was no impact whatsoever.
SK: That’s great to hear. So what’s next for Porky Products?
PD: Our next big initiative is virtual desktops. We’ve started a pilot, and noticed that the high-end resources on our IBM storage are being taken up by these virtual desktops. We think that Infino’s RAM-based caching will offload this I/O from storage.
SK: Finally, can you summarize what you’ve achieved with Infinio?
PD: First, we virtualized SAP on VMware, which really simplified things. Once we installed Infinio, we didn’t have to deal with separate backups for virtual and physical servers, or any other unique treatment for a single standalone system. This also let us move off of legacy hardware and entirely onto Cisco UCS. Finally, with Infinio, we replaced 3TB of expensive Fusion I/O PCIe flash cards with a pair of mirrored 800GB SAS SSD drives.
SK: Thanks for your time today.