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DevOps strategy for health site fueled by flash, CDM

March 15, 2017

Women’s health website Lifescript ‘transformed into a DevOps’ shop after implementing all-flash arrays from Pure Storage and Actifio CDM.

Flash storage and copy data management helped women’s health website Lifescript adopt a DevOps strategy that is crucial to its revenue generation.

All-flash vendor Pure Storage Inc. and copy data management (CDM) pioneer Actifio Inc. last year launched the Actifio AppFlash DevOps Platform, which runs Actifio software on Pure arrays.

“We’ve always been chasing performance,” Lifescript’s CTO Jack Hogan said of his company’s move to flash.

Lifescript started using flash in Hewlett-Packard 3PAR StoreServ hybrid arrays in 2012. The hybrid 3PAR arrays improved IOPS performance, but latency remained an issue. Hogan looked at Pure Storage’s FlashArray in the early days of the all-flash startup and became one of its first 100 customers in 2013.

He cited Pure’s built-in data deduplication as a major selling point, especially after he tested it and it ran without a performance hit. He said the data reduction made Pure more cost-effective for Lifescript.

“It was hard to part with 3PAR because we had a long-term relationship with them,” he said. “But it became a no-brainer once we determined there was no performance hit introducing [Pure’s] dedupe and compression. We were always constrained by latency, and HP was still struggling to get its data reduction in place.”

HP — now Hewlett Packard Enterprise following the Hewlett-Packard company split — introduced an all-flash version of 3PAR around the time Lifescript switched over, but Hogan said it would cost about eight times what the Pure array costs for usable capacity.

All-flash arrays reduce latency, bump IOPS

Hogan said Lifescript sends up to 30 million emails a day to subscribers. The website runs complex data analytics to find relevant information to send to users. He said the Pure arrays decreased latency from 60 milliseconds to five milliseconds while running analytics, helping Lifescript pump out relevant information faster.

“We’re making real-time business decisions based on our ability to process data. And now, we’re processing it so much faster,” Hogan said.

Lifescript has Pure FlashArrays running in separate data centers for a total of 92 TB of raw capacity. Hogan said the arrays give him a 3 1/2:1 data reduction ratio.

Flash, copy data management form DevOps strategy

Lifescript actually implemented Actifio before switching to all-flash. Lifescript started with an Actifio CDS data center appliance running at a managed third-party site. Now, it uses Actifio Sky virtual appliances to bridge primary and secondary data centers. Sky handles replication between Pure arrays, enabling disaster recovery for the company’s VMware and Microsoft SQL Server applications.

“The primary reason [for going to Actifio],” Hogan said, “was the economies of copy data management, being able to spin up replicas, and move and replicate data easily.”

Actifio’s CDM fits into the DevOps strategy. Hogan said Actifio has made life easier on the six developers on Lifescript’s 17-person IT team, allowing the team to quickly create copies of 10 TB-plus databases to use for development purposes.

“We’ve transformed into a DevOps shop,” he said. “Our database group can quickly spin up copies of things, and our development group can run their new application against production-class platforms. We’re not creating secondary block-level storage; we’re just spinning up copies.

“That contention that used to exist between individual divisions in the IT group has gone away.”