Why one insurance company ditched its own hardware- for a cloud -based SAN

Why do some enterprise managers decide to brave their way into the new and unknown of cloud-based services? Sometimes it's simply because the old technology just isn't working out that well anymore.

Converging SAN traffic in the data center

National Lloyds & American Summit Insurance, based in Waco, Texas, found itself pondering a trail-blazing path last summer as it looked to the possibility of getting rid of its internal storage-area network in favor of cloud-based SAN services. Why? At heart, the matter was pretty straightforward, says Joe Kempenich, vice president of IT at the insurance firm, which specializes in flood insurance policies. The experiences he had had with SAN storage vendors — which he declined to name — were disappointing over time because they kept ending support for the on-premises hardware he had purchased.

"For the third time in five years, I was told my SAN wouldn't be supported. So I had to go about replacing it," he says. But that was the final straw, and last year the insurance company started looking at what Kempenich says were a wide number of options and decided on TwinStrata to migrate to a cloud storage area network last August. The main purpose was disaster recovery and backup for customer insurance policies, which are stored in imaged PDF format and are aren't viewed too often except for specific business purposes such as claims or new policies.

The insurance firm is also using Amazon's cloud services for disaster recovery purposes and expects to use Amazon more over time. The TwinStrata CloudArray virtual appliance acts as gateway between the insurance firm's VMware-based network to enable immediate access to the Amazon cloud storage. The insurance firm uses an IBM mainframe on site as a web front end for authorized personnel needing access to contract-related documents cached in encrypted form in the TwinStrata SAN in the cloud. If the needed document isn't in the cache there, the IBM mainframe can bring it back from the Amazon cloud storage.

No one using this cloud-based storage access has noticed any difference in performance in comparison to the former in-house SAN gear, says Kempenich. But to address latency concerns, the insurance firm beefed up its Internet access pipe realizing that would be important. He adds that after six months of use, the new configuration has proven reliable and even appears to be saving about $2,700 per month.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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