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Solid State Disk Accelerates MRP

  • September 01 2004, 1:00am EDT

CATEGORY: Data administration, management, modeling and database performance.

REVIEWER: Larry Singleton, systems analyst for Thornwood Furniture Manufacturing.

BACKGROUND: Established in 1987, Thornwood Furniture Manufacturing, Inc. designs and manufactures oak and maple furniture that has a reputation for sustained quality and value throughout the United States and Canada. Our collections include entertainment centers, home office/bookcases, youth and adult bedrooms. Our production facility currently utilizes 300,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space on a 26-acre campus located in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona.

PLATFORMS: IBM running AIX 5.2.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Manufacturing resource planning (MRP) is faster and more efficient using the RamSan-320 from Texas Memory Systems. Thornwood Furniture's MRP application needed to grow to keep pace with our expanding business. Maintaining our competitive edge requires us to maintain high quality and efficiency. We rely heavily on our IT systems, especially MRP. We require real-time, accurate data for efficient resource management. Our users need to run multiple data-intensive programs simultaneously, without loss of productivity due to slow system response. Work space files are created when a user does a database selection and needs to access that data as fast as possible in order to complete a process. We create work space files with as many as 150,000 records. Before we implemented our new system with RamSan, creating those files was sometimes very slow, even taking minutes on occasion. In addition, our overnight MRP process needed to run faster. Adding a more powerful server could make the application run faster, but unless we could increase the access to the data, we would not actually improve performance. Even a fast RAID storage device was too slow. Using the RamSan-320, we can create large workspace files in seconds.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We have observed throughput of 110MB per second and 11,000 I/Os per second on our MRP systems. This means that the RamSan is enabling us to avoid data-access bottlenecks in our application. We are taking full advantage of our application and server power, and we spend much less time waiting for data access. The internal redundancy and the use of solid-state technology make the system robust and reliable. The product itself appears very solid and stable; we are not experiencing downtime or wasting time troubleshooting and fixing problems. The Web interface makes configuration and management quick and easy. The RamSan-320 is interoperable and certified to work with major platforms such as IBM, Microsoft and Sun. We use IBM servers running AIX, as well as IBM RAID and the UniVerse RDBMS. We had no problems bringing the RamSan into our environment.

STRENGTHS: The RamSan is extremely fast, available in large capacities and is upgradeable to add capacity as needed. The product is very solid and stable. The Web interface is good and RamSan fits beautifully in our rack.

WEAKNESSES: SSD is not cheap. It makes sense if you need performance, but not as a substitute for hard disk storage. We put some of our most frequently accessed data files on the RamSan for performance reasons, but we still keep most of our data on slower RAID where absolute best performance is not the priority. The documentation could also be improved.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We considered using very fast RAID storage devices, but we turned them down after testing them. They simply were not fast enough for our needs. We used smaller capacity solid-state disks before and really liked the speed of that technology. The RamSan was the fastest storage we could find, and we could get the capacity and performance we needed. Because it is also IBM TotalStorage Proven, it interoperates with our environment which includes SSA RAID from IBM.

DELIVERABLES: We see performance that is virtually the same as internal system RAM from the external RamSan. We deployed the RamSan because we needed to make sure that our manufacturing resource planning application would run faster and our numerous users running multiple processes simultaneously would not be hampered by slow system response. The time required to run the MRP process has been cut in half. This helps us in our goal to run Thornwood operations efficiently and remain competitive in manufacturing and delivering quality home furniture.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The salesperson did a fine job, and the technical support people who assisted were very helpful.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is very lengthy and technical. The Web interface is more clear and helpful than the documentation in running the product.

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