With volumes of data growing along with the company’s growth trajectory, how could Follett Higher Education keep its applications running smoothly to maintain excellent customer satisfaction?
Working with IBM Business Partner Sirius, Follett deployed IBM® FlashSystem® technology and intuitive IBM Spectrum™ storage management tools—boosting performance, scalability, and flexibility.
>75%improvement in system response times
80%compression ratio stretches the value of capacity investments
HelpsIT staff easily manage storage infrastructure—boosting flexibility and scalability
Business challenge story
Quenching the thirst for knowledge
With more and more teachers and educational institutions leveraging online resources to support students’ learning, providers of educational products and services are competing to meet growing demand for efficient, convenient services.
If retailers of educational resources are to satisfy these customer expectations, they must ensure that they are equipped with storage technologies that can process the rising volumes of data required to support highly responsive, data-driven applications.
Sanjeev Singh, former CIO at Follett Corporation, explains: “At Follett Higher Education, we not only help pupils and students access the e-books and textbooks they need to guide their studies, we also provide a wide range of services for schools, libraries, universities, and on-campus retailers—including student information, library, and resource management systems.
“With demand for our products and services increasing, we found that our storage infrastructure needs had increased tenfold. So, to ensure that we could continue to offer excellent service to our customers, we set out to enhance the performance of our core applications by upgrading our storage infrastructure.”
Tom Matt, Vice President of Enterprise Infrastructure at Follett Corporation, adds: “We knew that implementing faster storage, to provide core applications with higher levels of performance, was essential for keeping customer satisfaction high. However, we didn’t want to sacrifice flexibility and scalability just to achieve increased performance.
“Furthermore, we recognized that developing our storage infrastructure provided an opportunity to streamline the management and maintenance of our IT architecture, as well as reduce infrastructure costs.”
With plans to increase its use of cloud services and deploy more customer-facing apps, Follett aimed to gain the flexibility to move data seamlessly between public and private clouds.
Singh explains: “We wanted a storage solution that could support a hybrid cloud environment, so we could access the economies of scale associated with public clouds, together with the security of a private cloud.”
A class above the rest
Working with IBM Business Partner Sirius, Follett deployed a comprehensive software-defined storage environment based on IBM Storage and IBM® Spectrum technologies. This has empowered the organization to achieve the performance, scalability, and flexibility it needs to meet growing customer expectations.
Singh comments: “To select the perfect storage solution for our needs, we evaluated offerings from leading vendors. The IBM solutions stood out by far, offering the best performance, scalability, and flexibility, as well as the potential to make cost savings. What’s more, having used IBM solutions for more than a decade, we were confident in their reliability.”
IBM and Sirius are helping Follett Higher Education to migrate its tier-zero workloads from five of its seven existing IBM XIV® systems to just two IBM FlashSystem® A9000R arrays using IBM Spectrum Virtualize™, powered by IBM SAN Volume Controller technology.
Singh explains: “So far, we have migrated approximately half of the workloads from our XIV landscape to the IBM FlashSystem A9000R arrays, and we plan to migrate the remaining workloads in the coming months.”
The FlashSystem A9000R combines ultra-low-latency IBM FlashCore® enterprise flash storage with built-in IBM Spectrum Accelerate™ software for space-efficient snapshots, replication, and more. IBM flash technologies provide advanced error correction, wear leveling, and data striping to enhance the dependability of the all-flash storage.
“The expertise and professionalism of the IBM engineers was second to none,” continues Matt. “We were pleased with how easy it was to implement the IBM FlashSystem A9000R. The IBM team set up the hardware and brought it online in just four hours! Migrating our application data from our existing storage hardware to the A9000R was equally seamless, and we don’t expect to encounter any issues as we complete our migration.”
While establishing the IBM FlashSystem A9000R as its future tier-zero storage layer for its VMware virtual servers and for data-intensive applications, Follett continues to rely on IBM Storwize® V7000 and IBM DS8000® systems to support less demanding workloads. The use of IBM Spectrum Suite software enables the company to manage all of these different systems in the same way, and in a single pane of glass.
Matt adds: “The management tools included in IBM Spectrum Suite not only provide great data compression and system optimization tools, they also enable us to run our backup and recovery processes in virtual tape libraries—dramatically reducing the time it would take to restore our systems if we ever experienced any issues.”
Powering customer satisfaction
As Follett continues to migrate its workloads to the new IBM flash storage, the company is already seeing improvements in performance, realizing the potential to make cost savings, and enhancing the flexibility and scalability of its storage infrastructure.
Singh explains: “Migrating our most demanding workloads to the IBM FlashSystem A9000R gave us a more than 75 percent boost in performance, by reducing the average response time from 6.5 milliseconds to just 1.5 milliseconds. With FlashSystem cutting the latency between applications and storage, our customers get a smooth and highly responsive experience.”
By replacing five of its seven IBM XIVs with just two IBM FlashSystem A9000R arrays, Follett will be able to significantly reduce its data-center footprint, cutting power and cooling costs while at the same increasing performance and capacity.
Singh adds, “With IBM Real-Time Compression, we are achieving compression ratios of around 80 percent, which means every 1TB of data can shrink down to as little as 200GB. This is a huge efficiency saving for Follett, which significantly stretches the value of our present and future investments in new capacity as the business grows.”
The introduction of flash storage from IBM has also provided a major boost to Follett’s large VMware landscape, giving the company the capacity to add a further 500 virtual servers. This means that it can more easily extend its application landscape without impacting performance or requiring additional storage expenditure.
Matt adds: “The rich management functionalities of IBM Spectrum Suite have helped us unify the management of our entire storage infrastructure. What’s more, by automating a number of maintenance and management processes, we have reduced the time and effort required to keep our applications running smoothly.”
The software-defined storage architecture from IBM also makes it easier to plan future capacity and stay aligned with the business growth trajectory at Follett.
“IBM Spectrum Virtualize helps us guard against the risk of investing in redundant capacity,” says Matt. “If we need additional capacity, we can deploy new storage of practically any type and seamlessly share it across any of our applications.”
Singh concludes: “With IBM solutions powering our storage, we are in great shape to keep delivering fast, convenient service to more customers as we build out new apps.”
For more than 140 years, Follett has been a trusted partner to Pre-K and K-12 schools, districts, and colleges, taking care of the critical details that make it easier for schools to run, teachers to teach, and students to learn. Follett is more than just a book company, it is a gateway to knowledge—harnessing its insights to help improve student outcomes and shape the future of education.
Take the next step
To learn more about IBM Flash Storage, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/storage/flash
Since its foundation in 1980, Sirius has grown to be one of the largest IT solutions integrators in the U.S. Today, Sirius offers integrated, multivendor technology solutions that meet the requirements of the full range of organizations, from small businesses with fewer than 500 employees to large enterprises with thousands of employees and hundreds of locations. To find out more visit: siriuscom.com