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Pure Storage FlashStack is recycler's renewable resource

Food waste recycler Valley Proteins chose Pure Storage's all-flash converged infrastructure to replace Dell EMC VNX-Cisco UCS for 24 TB of usable storage with Cohesity backup.

Brad Wilton changed his way of thinking about flash storage after seeing the Pure Storage FlashStack converged infrastructure in action.

Wilton is director of IT at Valley Proteins, a Winchester, Va., firm that recycles food-service waste and waste byproducts into agricultural feed and biofuel. Valley Proteins is converting to an all-flash data center to underpin SAP databases that track inventory, materials processing, vehicle location and other items central to its business model.

The specialty recycler has implemented Pure all-flash storage infrastructure with 137 TB of raw capacity, which is reduced to 24 TB after applying compression and data deduplication. The Pure Storage FlashStack converged infrastructure combines Pure FlashArray//M all-flash arrays, Cisco Unified Computing System (Cisco UCS) servers and Cisco fabric interconnects.

Previously, Valley Proteins ran converged infrastructure based on Cisco UCS with attached EMC VNX storage. The transition started when Wilton joined Valley Proteins five years ago. At the time, the company was struggling with a SAP implementation and plagued by intermittent network outages that lasted for days. 

Around the same time, company executives decided to relocate the Valley Proteins campus from its rural setting to an urban facility it already owned, a move that coincided with its next tech refresh cycle.

"We started looking at all-flash options from [Dell] EMC and Pure Storage. We really had a hard time initially in believing the Pure Storage marketing literature. The performance and management they were claiming with FlashStack just seemed too good to be true," Wilton said.

Kicking the tires on Pure Storage's all-flash CI

Wilton visited a nearby Pure Storage customer for a firsthand look at FlashStack. He said he "kicked the tires" for several hours and came away "absolutely shocked" at the ease and performance aspects.

"I know this company well, and they knew we were coming by to visit their data center. When we got there, the engineer had to go look up the IP address of the Pure array. He didn't know it by heart. That's how infrequently they need to log in and work on it. That was an eye-opener," Wilton said.

Valley Proteins director of IT Brad WiltonBrad Wilton

Next, Wilton separately met with Dell EMC and Pure Storage to test VMware Enhanced vMotion compatibility (VMware EVC). Wilton said he needed to ensure his eventual purchase could scale to support a fully virtualized environment that supports 2,000 employees.

"I went up to Boston and New York one week to meet with EMC and Pure to solidify my decision," he said. "While the Pure EVC test was going on, I had a Pure presales engineer on site with my own engineer. They racked and stacked the arrays, and my engineer moved the sample workloads from the EMC arrays to the Pure flash arrays, without the aid of professional services. Again, that was shocking."

Wilton next instructed his engineer to start migrating the entire Valley Proteins environment from EMC to the Pure Storage FlashStack converged infrastructure. "He accomplished the entire move in less than three days," Wilton said.

Pure Storage flash edges VNX on performance, price

Wilton said Valley Proteins is getting about 6-to-1 data reduction with Pure Storage inline compression and dedupe. The efficiency will allow Valley Proteins to shrink its hardware footprint and stretch the life of the arrays, Wilton said.

Improved SAP database performance is another immediate benefit. "We're running SAP, but HANA is still on our roadmap. When we put in the Pure Storage flash, we were immediately getting HANA-like performance, even though we aren't running HANA yet," Wilton said.

In addition to retiring its Dell EMC VNX arrays, Valley Proteins plans to phase out Dell EMC Avamar backup appliances. Wilton said he will replicate Pure Storage FlashStack snapshots to Cohesity DataPlatform disk-based backup appliances.

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