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DigiTar Uses Hybrid SSD-Hard Drive Storage to Boost Performance

Email security service provider DigiTar, based in Boise, Idaho, has been providing services and support to companies in the financial, legal, government, and other vertical industries since 2004. Its clients range in size from five employees to 50,000, so there isn't a single service or solution that fits them all. But the one thing they all want is consistently reliable, insightful, and responsive service.

"We are in a highly competitive industry with competitive margins," says Jason Williams, DigiTar's chief operating and technology officer. "As we approached our storage needs, we wanted to reduce operational costs -- such as the cost of storage itself and the time it was taking for us to manage storage."

What DigiTar wanted was the flexibility of more efficient and cost-effective storage that would facilitate better service to clients. "Part of what we wanted to deliver to our client base was more flexible analytics and reports that presented clients with fresh information that they had never seen before," Williams says. "Additionally, many of our clients wanted to use us as an archiving facility for their reporting and results."

To answer the challenge, DigiTar embarked on an evolutionary storage journey that began with low-end storage arrays employing 7,200 RPM SATA hard drives and moved to clustered pairs of Sunfire X4500 storage servers from Sun Microsystems. "Before making the move to the X4500, we had looked at several other storage options in the market," he says, "but again and again, Sun's solutions and scalability were best suited to our needs."

DigiTar then made another move to boost performance -- adding solid-state drives. It conducted extensive internal performance benchmarks to substantiate the benefits of a blended SSD-hard drive system. DigiTar's original deployment of Sunfire X4500 servers used 48 spindles or hard drives that each delivered 75 IOPS per drive for a total of 3,600 IOPS per server. DigiTar then moved to a "mixed" disk configuration that put in a single solid-state drive (SSD) as the front end to the hard drives. In performance tests of the new "hybrid" of SSD and hard-drive storage, the total IOPS zoomed to 20,000 -- more than a fivefold increase.

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