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TD Securities chooses Dell PowerMax to grow with it

Looking at high-end block storage systems for high transactional needs, a Canadian wholesale bank decided to tap Dell PowerMax as an investment for current and future business.

Block storage at TD Securities block storage needed a refresh, and the bank chose to find a product that would grow with it instead of renewing what it had.

Founded in 1987 and a subsidiary of the Toronto-Dominion Bank, TD Securities is a Canadian investment bank with more than 6,500 employees in 39 cities globally that focuses on wholesale banking such as currency conversion and large trades, which require higher performance and lower latency found in block storage.

TD Securities' block storage set up was made up of several systems or storage pockets stitched together, making it hard to maintain, according to Feisal Anooar, global head of data storage for wholesale banking at TD Securities.

"All these little pockets of something need to be part of a strategy," Anooar said.

Storage at TD Securities also wasn't managed by storage admins but by general infrastructure specialists, he said. While this worked, it was far from optimal. After some searching, TD Securities selected to move forward with Dell PowerMax, which provides high availability, performance of up to 350 GB/s and a quoted maximum effective capacity of 4.5 petabytes, according to Dell. However, these benefits come at a premium.

"If you don't need the highest performance, it can be overkill," said Dave Raffo, an analyst at Futurum Group.

Banks dealing with high-speed trading, however, are a good PowerMax use case, he said.

Out with the good, in with the better

Anooar joined TD Securities in 2018 with a mandate to establish a storage discipline in the wholesale banking division. First, he took inventory of the infrastructure on the floor and found 15 to 20 different products cobbled together to address issues as they arose. These different products required different skill sets, which posed another problem, he said.

"I would never find people with both the breadth and depth of experience in all those technologies," Anooar said. "If I did, I would have to maintain all those skills."

Anooar looked through use cases and requirements, qualified them against the bank's governance controls, and began replacing older technology and consolidating. Through this process, he came to the company's high-end legacy block storage and found it was hitting the five-year mark and was due for a refresh. Anooar wanted to explore his options for a block storage product that would give the firm the best advantage.

He was looking for a vendor that would help him pare down the storage infrastructure and align with TD Securities' roadmap around performance, scalability that didn't increase the data center footprint and high availability.

New kid for the block

Along with Dell, TD Securities looked at high-end block storage systems from HPE, NetApp and Hitachi Vantara. The system needed to operate on premises due to regulatory, performance and security needs. After weighing the pros and cons, TD Securities decided on Dell PowerMax partially due to how established it was.

"A lot of the systems we looked at were scale-out, but PowerMax was in its fourth generation," Anooar said. "Dell introduced its scale-out architecture in 2009 [released as EMC VMax] and have done thousands of deployments globally across hundreds of customers."

PowerMax gave TD Securities' storage a performance boost. LUN response times went from milliseconds to microseconds, and PowerMax provided a cost-effective way to manage ballooning data sizes as well as features to keep data secure, Anooar said.

"Two key challenges for anybody managing a storage or data environment [are] No. 1: Data continually grows with a cost attached to it. And No. 2: We need to make sure that we keep that data safe and protected," he said.

PowerMax lowers capacity needs by using inline deduplication and compression, and it provides data encryption functionality, Anooar said. The array uses dedicated hardware to prevent data reduction from using primary array resources, resulting in minimal impact to performance.

Compressing the data resulted in storage savings that doubled when using PowerMax at the replication site. Compression resulted in a 60% physical reduction need in storage infrastructure that also translated into less cooling and energy costs, he said.

Proven tech leads to easier deployment

Established products such as PowerMax can also mean established skill sets, Anooar said.

"You can't find many people who worked as a block storage engineer in a bank that don't have experience on Dell PowerMax platforms," he said.

This creates a larger pool of talent to draw from when  building and deploying the system.

Anooar's team of engineers worked on the configuration for application requirements while Dell installed and configured the PowerMax devices to replace the existing high-end SAN storage.

The added performance allowed for a level of scalability that was unachievable prior to PowerMax, Anooar said. PowerMax also uses AI/ML to look for hotspots, or areas where workloads are using more I/O than expected, and move them to better-suited storage automatically.

Add options and simplicity

Anooar said TD Securities is constrained in its options for storage because of the bank's unique use case, which demands an on-premises product rather than a more fluid, flexible cloud product.

A lot of the systems we looked at were scale-out, but PowerMax was in its fourth generation … [having] done thousands of deployments globally across hundreds of customers.
Feisal AnooarGlobal head of data storage for wholesale banking, TD Securities

"Our primary storage needs microsecond response times. and that would be difficult with a public cloud provider," he said.

There are also regulations and governance to think about, he added. This can be more easily controlled on premises.

Anooar said he did see a possible future for cloud operational models for the bank depending on how they are set up. The primary applications would still need to be on premises, but other services could be hosted elsewhere.

Anooar said having a choice as to what software goes on what hardware would be a welcome change. He would like to take the capabilities of PowerMax and move them to lower-tier storage, such as a backup. TD Securities had a list of features and capabilities it needed that PowerMax provided, but hardware to add the features to would also be a benefit.

He also said having three storage tiers -- fast, medium and slow -- and then adding the features and capabilities needed could speed up the selection process.

"You end up with the smallest set of selections for the customer," Anooar said. "And this isn't just an issue for storage. … With any product you buy, there is just too much choice."

The idea of uncoupling software or data services isn't new to Dell. That is part of the idea behind Project Alpine, the vendor's project for moving data services from hardware to the cloud. For storage specifically, Dell offers its software-defined storage in PowerFlex, Raffo said.

"That is what PowerFlex is for: just using the software on different hardware," he said.

However, this level of software-defined storage is not at the high level of performance required by TD Securities and offered in PowerMax, Raffo said.

Adam Armstrong is a TechTarget Editorial news writer covering file and block storage hardware, and private clouds. He previously worked at

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