How Freeit Created Rock-Solid Disaster Recovery Environment for Kanaly Trust

Kanaly Trust Turns to Freeit to Create Rock-Solid Disaster Recovery Environment 

Multi-Billion Dollar Financial Firm Chooses Nimble Storage to Improve DR and Set Foundation for New Virtual Desktop Deployment

After working for more than 30 years as a bank trust officer and executive, E. Deane Kanaly created Kanaly Trust in 1975 with the expectation of changing the way people manage their financial affairs. In addition to personal asset management, Kanaly Trust provides complete financial planning and trust/estate services to families, individuals, and estates. This highly successful financial firm now employs over 50 associates in Houston, Texas and manages over $2.5 billion in assets for its high net worth clients located around the world.

Geoffrey Moon is the director of IT for Kanaly Trust. He and his one part-time IT admin are responsible for all of the IT infrastructure that supports the company’s high-profile clients and employees. “Our company places a very high value on IT,” noted Moon. “We made the decision a few years ago to keep everything in-house in order to guarantee data security for our important financial clients. Downtime for any of our production servers is simply not acceptable. When our clients call us or send an e-mail, they expect immediate service. That’s why they’ve chosen us to manage their significant portfolios.”

Improving DR and Preparing for VDI

Kanaly Trust’s aging storage platform had been performing adequately, but the arrays were rapidly running out of capacity. “We purchased a couple of EqualLogic arrays five years ago when we started virtualizing our environment,” noted Moon. “We have now virtualized 90 percent of our servers.”

One of Moon’s biggest concerns for the company’s IT environment was making sure they had a robust disaster recovery plan in place. “The EqualLogic arrays are really space-inefficient with replication and snapshotting,” Moon reported. “With the limited snapshot space, we could restore data going back just one day. While that is sufficient in most DR scenarios, I want the ability to store snapshots for much longer retention periods to increase our ability to recover from any catastrophic array failures or accidental data deletions or corruption.”

Evaluating the Storage Alternatives

Freeit Data Solutions worked directly with Kanaly’s IT team to evaluate several storage options, from all flash solutions, to hybrid storage, to simply adding more EqualLogic arrays to their existing environment. But keeping costs down was also a very important factor in the choice of storage platform. “Being a small business, we have to balance our compute requirements with our budget,” Moon said. “We have enterprise-level needs, but unfortunately, a less-than enterprise-level budget to go with it. With tight IT budgets, all-flash solutions were simply not cost effective for us. Plus, I didn’t feel that the all-flash solutions were at a sufficient level of maturity yet to future-proof our storage solution.”

Hearing the Nimble Message

Moon had previously heard a lot about Nimble Storage and the company’s hybrid arrays from some of his colleagues and agreed to see a product demo. Freeit introduced Moon to the Nimble Road Show. “The Nimble Road Shows are really valuable. I met the CEO and the engineering guys, and heard the Nimble pitch directly. It reassured me that there are ‘real faces’ behind the Nimble products that are willing to go out there and talk directly to customers. That really set them apart from the other storage vendors.”

Moon made the decision to test the Nimble arrays in 2012. “Since DR is so important for us, we started by testing the ease of failover and failback with the Nimble arrays. We do ‘real’ DR failover testing on our systems. We don’t just failover and see if everything is okay, and then continue to run at our primary site, we actually run full production from our DR site for a number of days. So it’s critical that not only failover works — failback has to be rock-solid as well. After testing the DR scenario, we knew the Nimble arrays would really improve our DR capabilities.”

Transparent Firmware Upgrades

In addition to improving DR, ease of storage management and administration were keys issue for Kanaly Trust. “The almost transparent nature of the Nimble firmware upgrades is wonderful. I don’t miss a single ‘ping’ during the upgrades. This is in contrast to our previous storage environment, were it would drop off for 35 seconds to a minute, and we would cross our fingers that everything would come back okay after that gap.”

Increasing Snapshot Retention from 1 Day to Nearly 2 Months

Kanaly is now running its entire server environment on the Nimble Storage platform. “The Nimble arrays provide us with the ability to maintain much longer snapshot replication windows,” Moon reported. “I can now store more than 45 days of snapshots and replicate all of them over to my DR site in Austin. With EqualLogic, I could only store one day of snapshots. In the unlikely scenario that we have a failure that starts corrupting our backups, the additional snapshot space that comes with the Nimble arrays will enable us to provide even more protection for our valuable data.”

Direct Access to Experts with Nimble Support

Moon also appreciates having direct access to storage experts. “During our evaluation period, I felt like I was directly connected to the engineering and support departments at Freeit and Nimble. Even though I hadn’t bought the product yet, it was great to avoid the typical ‘end-of-the-queue’, first-level support reps who are assigned to all of the eval customers at most other companies.”

Moon has only had a few chances to interact with the Nimble Support department since purchasing the arrays. “All of our support experiences have been excellent. The Nimble support team was able to resolve all of our problems, and their willingness to follow-up on issues is among the best in the industry.”

Gaining ‘An Extra Pair of Eyes’ into Storage Management with InfoSight

Freeit also introduced Kanaly Trust to Nimble Storage InfoSight™. Built on powerful analytics, systems modeling, and intelligent, predictive algorithms, InfoSight harnesses the power of the cloud and deep data to simplify and streamline activities across the storage lifecycle. “We have a really small IT team — it’s just me and one additional half-time storage admin. I really like knowing there are more people keeping an eye on our environment. I know I will need more storage very soon, but I don’t have budget right now. With the low space alerts from InfoSight, I have the ability to proactively tune things for efficiency, in terms of snapshots and replication data, to match what capacity I have available right now. I wouldn’t be able to do this without InfoSight.”

Preparing for the Move to VDI

“We’re currently using the Nimble arrays for a few persistent View desktops, and will likely expand on that going forward,” Moon stated. “With the Nimble arrays, we know we will have the performance, capacity, and data protection we need to be able to deploy VDI confidently.”