Case Studies

Fan manufacturer airs out its cloud data storage challenges with EMC

Getting the most out of manufacturing data isn't just a matter of harvesting it. IT managers must also find ways to store this data without hoarding it from others in the organization that could benefit. When Greenheck Fan Corp., a Schofield, Wisc.-based manufacturer of fans and other air movement and control products, needed to stabilize and improve its cloud data storage and sharing practices, it turned to EMC Corp.

Greenheck has been an EMC customer for nearly a decade, starting with the EMC Clariion CX500 networked storage system in 2004. When Greenheck first adopted EMC, the company was running its SAP ERP software on a Hitachi storage system -- and experiencing some performance issues, according to Eric Pond, technical services manager at Greenheck. "We had a ton of I/O problems, which became problems for our users when we went live," he said. "We worked with SAP directly, and they're the ones that came in and said, 'Obviously, your storage is a slow point here' and recommended EMC. So it was a pretty easy decision for us."

EMC boosts Greenheck's SAP ERP
When it came time to implement the EMC storage systems, the process ran smoothly, according to Pond. Greenheck went through a "sizing procedure" during which SAP looked at Greenheck's processes and statistics to determine what sort of data load the company was working with. EMC provided SAP-trained employees to assist in the implementation, Pond added.

"Because we were having performance issues, they really fast-tracked it. We got the gear in, got people trained and migrated the data at a pretty rapid pace," he said. The entire implementation process took roughly 60 days, Pond added.

Today, the company is running two EMC VNX storage platforms. In addition to these storage area networks, Greenheck also uses EMC data domains and the cloud-based backup and synchronization service by Syncplicity Inc., an EMC acquisition. The EMC data domain fills Greenheck's data backup needs, replicating and sending data to another domain in the Greenheck headquarters, Pond explained. The Syncplicity software serves as a "corporate Dropbox."

"It's nice for an IT department, because we can run the software and we have control over all the files, but it still gives our users flexibility to collaborate, work on and share files without us having to do anything," Pond said.

Luckily for Greenheck, there were few, if any, cultural hang-ups among employees when it came to understanding the new storage system. "For the Syncplicity system, which is in the public cloud, there are some concerns around privacy," Pond said. "We're looking at bringing some of our more secure data into a Syncplicity environment, but using a private cloud -- that's where hybrid cloud comes into play. So we'll be storing our data on our local servers, but our users won't know the difference."

EMC cloud data storage speeds up, frees up data sharing
The most noticeable change at Greenheck after implementing EMC was the speed and performance of data transfers, according to Pond. "It was immediately known within the first hour we were running on it," he said. "Everyone was like, 'Wow, this is a lot faster.'"

Greenheck's EMC systems touch every corner of the business -- it runs the SAP ERP system, which runs the whole company -- from HR to accounts payable to the shop floor, Pond explained.

EMC's data storage at Greenheck doesn't stop with SAP, Pond added. "We've got another VNX that's outside of SAP that's used for our VMware ESX server environment," he said. "We're about 60% virtualized on that server at this point; anybody who connects to our Exchange server touches [the VNX storage system] or SQL or other file environments. [They] are all using it today."

On the Syncplicity side of operations, Greenheck has enjoyed greater flexibility in its data virtualization options, Pond said. The company has an ongoing project known as "Anytime, Any Device, Any Data," the goal of which is to get the right people -- employees, partners and vendors -- the right information they need on any device. "[Syncplicity] keeps the base IT infrastructure involved so it's secure, we can back it up, we know where it is and it's available to our users from tablets, phones or PCs," Pond said.

While attending the recent EMC World conference, Pond took note of the upcoming VNX 2 second generation platform, which he hopes will help Greenheck perfect its data replication strategy. He is also interested in learning more about the ViPR cloud platform, which could help Greenheck as it continues to build its own private cloud while also continuing to use the private cloud. Greenheck is keeping a close watch on hybrid cloud computing.

"[EMC] is providing a shared service that we in IT at Greenheck can't do ourselves without some major investments," Pond said. "It worked out well for us, it fit a need and it gave us the security and ability to manage our data as we determine."

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