Joyce Meyer Ministries

Fed up with EMC, non-profit found SAN salvation elsewhere

January 26, 2005

3 Min Read
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The term "SMB" may be hot in marketing, but in the field it doesn't always pay off. At least, that's the impression the IT manager at Joyce Meyer Ministries (JMM) had while building his SAN.

"If other businesses are having the same problems we had, they must be frustrated," says Sal Cincotta, IT manager at JMM, which is a nonprofit company started by a Christian evangelist based in St. Louis.

Cincotta's SAN story started several months back, when he got fed up with his main vendor, EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC). JMM had bought Clariion equipment to support JMM's online services, retail products, and publications. But Cincotta's team were tired of paying additional hefty service fees to EMC each time they wanted to grow or reallocate disk storage. Nonetheless, as a growing company, JMM needed lots of reconfiguration, and Cincotta had no choice but to pay up.

On top of the fees, Cincotta found EMC's overall attitude toward his business to be cavalier. With 500 employees worldwide and about 20 Gbytes of database information to manage, he didn't feel like a "mom and pop" shop. But Cincotta perceived he was treated like one by EMC. "All I wanted was to feel that what we were working on mattered," he says.

A potential solution surfaced in a local technology center set up by Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), which provides all the software for JMM's servers. Cincotta, a former Microsoft employee, saw disk arrays from Xiotech Corp. whirring away there, made some calls, and was impressed by the response."They act like a partner," he says of his new supplier. By November 2004, Cincotta had replaced his Clariion with two Magnitude 3D arrays. One of the arrays is assigned to general database work -- accounting, retail sales, and so forth. A second Magnitude 3D is dedicated to JMM's media department, which produces graphics-intensive magazines, books, and online publications.

Overall, Cincotta has roughly 40 Tbytes of storage in the Magnitude 3Ds, assigned to a total of about 20 Tbytes of database information. (As Cincotta explains it, any RAID 10 disk array requires double the raw storage required for data in order to perform mirroring.) Four SilkWorm 3200 switches from Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) complete the SAN and connect to about 45 servers, all Microsoft-based.

With the new system, Cincotta's main breakthrough has been ease of use. Xiotech uses a Web-based interface to give administrators control over their disk configurations, including volume control and RAID adjustments. Cincotta says that two administrators, having attended a Xiotech training course for a week, can do everything needed to keep the SAN in working order. This has substantially reduced operating expenses.

Cincotta also claims Xiotech was cheaper in capital terms. He has spent about $750,000 on his Xiotech SAN; when he made his assessment of Xiotech, EMC came back with a bid that was about $100,000 more. Cincotta also looked over storage products from Apple Computer Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), but was at the time disappointed with performance.

JMM's story and others like it are being promoted by Xiotech, and they fit the company's current strategy -- namely, to woo SMBs away from the likes of the "big and bad" storage players such as EMC, Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), and Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW), and also NAS vendor Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP). (See XIOtech Launches Entry-Level SAN , Xiotech Launches New NAS, Xiotech Replicates, and Alain Andreoli, CEO, Xiotech.)Despite JMM's defection from EMC, however (on which EMC declined to comment for this article), Xiotech has a fight on its hands, especially given EMC's gains in the SMB space through its alliance with Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL). (See DoCoMo, Cellcom Team.)

Still, the story of JMM illustrates a few simple truths about the SMB market. To wit: As smaller organizations expand their SANs, growing competition is expanding their options.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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