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Speeding Up The Internet of Things: Crane Merchandising Deploys FlashSoft® and Delivers Business Information Faster

Crane Merchandising Systems, a leading provider of technologically advanced, automatic vending equipment relies on SanDisk® to help turn collected data into actionable business information.

FlashSoft-based Infrastructure:

  • Physical Servers: Dell® M610
  • SSD: Intel 520 250GB
  • Storage: NetApp®
  • Application(s): Database–MS SQL Server®

Challenge:

Crane Merchandising Systems is a leading provider of high quality, technologically advanced automatic merchandising equipment and payment systems utilizing integrated vending management software and wireless communication technology with its full line of vending equipment.

Randy Cottingham, Network Services Manager for Crane Merchandising has 15+ years as an IT professional with a focus on storage and virtualization technologies for the past 10 years. Randy and his team track emerging technologies that enhance vending operations and the user experience to deliver Crane’s uncompromising commitment to innovation and engagement.

In the emerging trend of the “Internet of Things,” intelligent devices collect data and communicate it automatically, to provide richer, more timely data, enabling applications and processes that improve business performance. But this means that many of today’s data centers receive large amounts of data constantly–data that must be readily available for analysis and action. Behind the Internet of Things lies the burgeoning explosion in data storage needs.

Crane Merchandising’s vending machines are equipped with monitoring software and wireless communications, to report activity back to the company’s five globally distributed data centers. Crane aggregates data from across its network to generate reports for the company’s customers, to optimize route scheduling and service needs, maximizing efficiency and product availability. Because the reports communicate the most up-to- date payment and inventory information, it’s critical to the business that reports be generated and delivered to customers several times per day.

Customers’ analytics reports are generated from a 1TB MS-SQL database, accessed by servers on virtual machines hosted on VMware® vSphere® hypervisor. The company’s business operations require maximum performance from its back end systems, but storage I/O latency presented a significant problem. Generating a single, routine report from the large amount of data typically required more than 20 minutes. One employee’s entire day would be consumed simply collecting and dispatching the reports for the company’s customers.

 

Solution

Randy and his team investigated adding memory to the servers to reduce latency, but this was very expensive; and because additional memory doesn’t fundamentally address storage bottlenecks in VMware environments, more memory only increased performance by about 20%. Randy tested server-side solid- state caching solutions from different vendors, but one proved too expensive and another was incompatible with the storage in Crane’s IT environment. Randy found FlashSoft was cost-effective and compatible with his environment. When Randy evaluated FlashSoft for VMware vSphere with a standard Intel® 250 GB SSD he saw an immediate improvement.

“I wasn’t forced to upgrade my storage which would have been an expensive undertaking.”

Randy Cottingham
Network Services Manager, Crane Merchandising

Results

Randy found that he could tune FlashSoft for optimal performance with his SSD and data workload, so reports that previously took 20 minutes are completed in only 10-11 minutes.

The I/O latency of the reporting application was reduced and overall VMware performance on his servers was improved by as much as 45%. Randy and his team also noted that FlashSoft software moved 90% of their I/O workload off their existing storage system and onto the server-side SSD. This enabled Randy to get the benefits of flash performance, while continuing to use his existing storage infrastructure. “I wasn’t forced to upgrade my storage which would have been an expensive undertaking,” states Randy.

Given his experience with storage and virtualization, Randy noticed other advantages in FlashSoft for VMware vSphere. Because FlashSoft does not require proprietary SSD controller software, Randy knew it would work with the solid-state devices he chose to deploy. Unlike other solutions Randy evaluated, FlashSoft does not require modifications of vmdk files or the config file of the host. This means that Randy could continue to manage his VMs the way he always had – vMotion and other VMware capabilities work just as they should. FlashSoft fit easily into Randy’s VMware deployment process, so he can continue to use the same template across all the hosts throughout his five data centers across the US and internationally. “I don’t have a large team, so I need a ‘set and forget’ solution; we don’t have time to fuss with it. FlashSoft installs and just works; if it required overhead I wouldn’t use it,” said Randy.

 

Conclusion

FlashSoft software eliminated storage I/O latency for its reporting applications, enabling more efficient processing of large amounts of data; so Crane employees could deliver critical information to the company’s customers more efficiently, without an expensive overhaul of the storage infrastructure.

Why This Matters

In today’s economy, information is the key to efficiency and business value. Increasingly that information comes from enormous amounts of data generated by the machines we use every day. But for the data to become useful business information, it must be aggregated, analyzed and reported. As the volume of data grows and time-to-decision shrinks, storage bottlenecks must not get in the way. FlashSoft software enables the IT infrastructure performance improvements and storage efficiencies necessary to keep the lifeblood of information flowing freely.

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