UK-based law firm Morgan Cole LLP is replacing its NetApp storage platform with a flash-optimised hybrid storage array from Nimble, citing cost and performance benefits.

For a number of years, Morgan Cole has been using NetApp for light production storage and backup, and according to IT Director Jeff Wright it has provided a good degree of resilience.

However, the cost of the NetApp platform was growing year-on-year, out of all proportion. The company had worked out that it would have to invest another £100,000 the following year, just to keep it on a level with competitive offerings.

“When we were looking at other types of storage we were seeing the cost of storage generally dropping considerably,” Wright told Techworld.

“We understand that NetApp is complicated kit and it provides us with a lot of functionality and resilience, but equally, when we looked at what Nimble could provide, it was doing the same and more for us at a considerably better price point.”

The company was also in the process of moving towards a virtualised environment, and its increased dependence on fairly heavyweight database applications meant that it needed storage that was going to be very responsive.

“We’ve got some applications that are operating in SQL, we’ve got some that are traditional client-server and operating across networks, and our lawyers are pretty demanding when it comes to speed and performance of their applications,” said Wright.

“Lawyers generally are not very forgiving, because time is literally money. So from that perspective we could not use anything that was going to give us any degradation in performance – ideally we wanted something that would give us an improvement.”

Nimble was chosen following a proof of concept using products from a number of different vendors. Morgan Cole's infrastructure team put all of the kit through its paces, and Nimble's CS-Series CS260G hard drive array came out on top in every category, according to Wright.

After finalising its requirements, Morgan Cole began the migration to Nimble, and has so far migrated half of its virtual server environment. Whereas 40 percent of space was taken up by virtualisation on the previous platform, it now only accounts for 4 percent of the storage capacity.

Moreover, Morgan Cole often got close to 90 percent utilisation on the NetApp platform during peaks of activity, but so far the Nimble array with the same requirements has not been pushed to within 10 percent of its capabilities.

The firm is doing all of the migration in-house, with occasional assistance and verification from Nimble, and Wright said one of the things he likes about the solution is its simplicity.

“All of our databases and applications were heavily integrated and communicating across different NetApp devices. I’m not going to underplay the complexity of that – it was part of our architecture and actually why the resilience piece previously was working so well,” he said.

“I’ve constantly pushed the guys in the past, because I would rather we verify a solution or an approach with a vendor to make sure we’re doing it right than think we can do it and do it wrong, and I think they’ve been pleasantly surprised at how it easy it has been to adapt.”

Wright added that there were some risks to be mitigated around the level of UK-based support that was available from Nimble. This was a particular concern given that NetApp's support network is well entrenched and has a great deal of credibility.

What Morgan Cole ended up doing was taking a set of spares. Due to the modular nature of the storage, and the limitation on the components that could go wrong, swapping out spares is a relatively easy way of maintaining resilience and reducing dependency on support from other areas.

“Touch wood, that has not proved problematic for us in any way whatsoever,” said Wright.

“The old adage about, you won’t get fired for choosing IBM – it was a bit of a risk for us as a newcomer to the market. What we’re expecting to see and starting to see from Nimble is that growing capability in the UK in terms of supporting the product.”