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Storage plays artistic and commercial roles for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The DSO streams live video of performances and archives those performances for replays. It also relies on its website for ticket sales, which means outages can cost the symphony money.
So when its Dell servers and EqualLogic block storage approached end of life, the DSO tuned up its IT infrastructure with a three-node cluster of Scale Computing HC3 hyper-converged appliances.
The Scale Computing nodes manage about 10 TB of data, including its live performance archive.
Jody Harper, the symphony's senior director of technology and infrastructure, said he became aware of Scale a few years back when he worked at another local nonprofit organization. Harper saw a Scale presentation at a Detroit-area meetup and was impressed by how little storage management its HCI appliances required.
"Scale Computing showed a hyper-converged infrastructure, with storage only on its own three nodes and no additional storage necessary. I was sitting there watching and thought 'It can't be that easy,'" Harper said.
That presentation influenced Harper's decision when he began looking to upgrade storage at the DSO. Harper said the DSO's EqualLogic storage suffered periodic outages that caused him to accelerate his refresh cycle.
"We are a performing arts institution that relies on ticket sales. Anytime our website is down, we're potentially losing money," he said.
Vetting Scale Computing HC3 -- and competitors
Depending on the use case, a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) may be an alternative to traditional data center storage technologies. A hyper-converged appliance integrates compute, storage and virtualization software, each functioning as a discrete unit within the box.
After deciding to go the HCI route, Harper looked into Dell EMC VxRail and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) SimpliVity HCI gear first, and then compared those products to Scale Computing HC3. Harper said he did not seriously consider HCI pioneer Nutanix, mainly on advice from colleagues that it would exceed his IT budget.
Harper said his Scale Computing HC3 1150 Series node cluster cost about 40% less than competing products while providing comparable performance.
Most HCI vendors support VMware vSphere, but Scale Computing uses its own KVM-based HyperCore hypervisor and the Scale Computing Reliable Independent Block Engine object store.
The DSO uses native snapshots in the Scale Computing cluster to take virtual machine images. It recently added a fourth HC3 node as a replication target at a second building on the DSO campus for disaster recovery.
Harper said another selling point for Scale Computing is that it does not require special training to deploy or operate.
"I don't need a certification to use it. I can do everything I need to in a single pane of glass -- take a snapshot, replicate it, clone it, delete it," he said. "In the nonprofit world, IT has to be a jack of all trades, so whatever hardware you buy needs to be simple and has to work well."