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Churchill gets Ctera hybrid cloud NAS and dodges 3PAR disk spend

Potteries-based ceramics maker Churchill has deployed Ctera hybrid cloud NAS storage for user file shares and avoided spending “tens of thousands of pounds” on expanding its 3PAR storage area network (SAN) storage.

Churchill is based in Stoke-on-Trent and has 700 employees. It is a commercial ceramics supplier that distributes stock on a same-day and next-day despatch basis to 70 countries via 508 distributors.

It is heavily dependent on its IFS enterprise resource planning (ERP) system plus productivity applications. Until recently, all its storage was based on its HPE 3PAR SAN array, which split about 30TB between user file shares and fast access application storage on solid-state drive (SSD) and 15k SAS drives.

The difficulty for Churchill’s IT department was that the growth of user files – that includes large video and graphics files from the commercial department – was pushing data volume growth to around 2TB per year.

“When we did the maths, 3PAR looked like getting very expensive,” said head of IT, Alistair Henderson. “What we wanted instead was ‘a unicorn’; infinite storage, or what appeared to be infinite.”

What Churchill got instead was a Ctera C400 appliance with a licence for 50TB of file storage, plus a virtual gateway as a failover for the hardware box.

The C400 stores user home drives and provides shared storage pools for graphics with NFS and SMB file access. All data is subject to backup to the AWS cloud.

Ctera’s products are so-called edge filers, which act as local capacity that can sync with other Ctera nodes globally and with cloud storage capacity.

Access can be from desktop and remote/mobile devices via Ctera Drive, APIs/web access and a mobile app, with data held in the Ctera Global File System. From there it can be accessed by users via Ctera instances or auto-synced to S3 cloud storage systems.

Less frequently used data can be staged off, with stubs retained locally. When these files are called, they are streamed to local Ctera storage. However, users can specify that specific folders are always retained locally if they want.

Key benefits for Churchill are the ease with which data can be restored and the spend avoided for more 3PAR capacity.

Henderson said: “We can restore from the last save – it makes a restore point for every save – which is handy when the commercial team have spent five hours writing a large Excel file and them made a mistake and over-written it, or a big graphics file has been accidentally deleted.”

“We have saved tens of thousands of pounds by not having to buy 3PAR. The line of business is still on 3PAR, but now we don’t have to worry about capacity limitations and constantly have to monitor it.

“3PAR was east to set up at first, but we had to watch whether the wrong areas were filling up.”

Churchill has also enabled Cloud Drive to allow users to access file shares while working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Churchill is operating a skeleton staff at its manufacturing works, where production is taking place.

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