Sidepath Gets Mazda America Rolling Again

By Alison Diana  |  Print this article Print

CASE STUDY: Mazda North American Operations terabytes of data had become a roadblock for the organization's progress. Here's how IT solution provider Sidepath got Mazda rolling again with some help from Dell Compellent.

Mazda North American Operations was spinning its wheels.

The auto-maker’s finance and account department stored terabytes of data, none of which could be archived, and each time neared capacity on its NetApp system, Mazda had to spend a lot of money to upgrade, CIO Jim DiMarzio told Channel Insider during an interview at the Rolex 24 race at Daytona International Speedway in January.

"We had been changing and adding, and every time we wanted to something it was a large dollar-amount," he said. "We wanted to upgrade our SAP system."

Simultaneously, the Irvine, Calif.-based company was virtualizing on VMware and Dell servers under the supervision of Kai Sookwongse, department manager of Enterprise Infrastructure Services at Mazda. The car-maker wanted to stop applying short-term fixes and find a long-term, cost-effective solution to its SAP storage dilemma, one that would please financial users who wanted speedy access to years of data and satisfy IT professionals who needed to end the company’s reliance on NetApp’ proprietary, expensive system, Sookwongse told Channel Insider, in an interview held in executive suite during the early laps of the Rolex 24, which included seven Mazda cars.

Mazda North American Operations wanted a solution that complemented its expanding virtualized environment; that could easily grow to meet the finance department’s continually increasing storage needs, and was affordable, the IT executives agreed. It was a time of change at the car company, which was moving from a physical to a virtual environment; 32-bit to 64-bit, and SQL Server 2000 to SQL Server 2008, among other steps. The company also wanted a sharable disaster recovery system for operations in the United States and Canada, management and analytics tools, as well as a solution that could be expanded as-needed.

"Everything we could change, we did change," said DiMarzio.

Storage Shift

As part of that change, Mazda North American Operations met with Sidepath, a long-time Dell Compellent and Dell partner that had cold-called the nearby business, recalled Michael Back, senior solutions consultant at the 10-year-old technology integrator.

The two companies worked together seamlessly, said DiMarzio.

"In meetings, I had no idea who was Compellent and who was Sidepath—and that’s good," he said.

Sidepath, which has a heavy engineering focus, recommended Dell Compellent’s efficient, cost-effective use of solid state technology. Mazda North American Operations, which considered alternative options from IBM and NetApp, determined Dell Compellent’s system delivered the best performance at the most attractive price, said Sookwongse.

Solid state technology was most appropriate for Mazda North American Operations’ finance professionals who did not want data archived but, instead, wanted all data to be accessible at all times, said DiMarzio. Traditionally, solid state is expensive, but Compellent’s solution offered an affordable way to use a technology that provided always-available access to data.

"The advantage of solid state disks is data is available as-needed," he said.

And Mazda North American Operations no longer needed to buy new arrays every few years, said Back.

"They were on this treadmill of having to buy a new array every three to five years. The way a lot of storage vendors sell their products, after three years, chassis isn’t supported. They raise support costs. They force you to buy new arrays every three to five years," he said. "Compellent doesn’t do that."

As a result of the Compellent solution, finance users enjoyed a huge increase in performance and speed, said Sookwongse.

"Feedback from the application team and business users found that all batch jobs, all transactions gained performance of roughly 80 to 400 percent," he said. "The bigger the transaction is, the bigger the performance benefit is."

In addition, the IT staff’s work environment improved immediately, said DiMarzio.

"With NetApp, any time we did anything we had to have a 'Maintenance Weekend,’" he said. "Compellent allows us to do maintenance during normal hours, not nights or weekends."

Added Sookwongse: "For us to do a half-hour of maintenance we had to shut-down everything. We have 400 servers."

Path to Partnership

Building a partnership takes much more, however, than recommending a solution. Sidepath’s engineering-oriented sales team worked with Compellent to demonstrate the solid state storage devices, answer the car manufacturer’s questions, and transfer knowledge. After the installation, Sidepath spent a day teaching IT how to use the storage solution and its software tools, and then returned about three weeks later to review the system and answer new questions that arose after IT professionals had used the solution, said Back.

"We’re a boutique shop, and we focus heavily on our customer base and have a high satisfaction rate, and we’re always around. This is something we’ve developed over the years. We would do a knowledge transfer with the installation. We get a lot of feedback from our customers and what they’d like to see from us. We’re a boutique organization so we’re very nimble," Back said. "To our customers all these products are pretty complicated so you want to make sure you’ve got the right kind of expertise around it."

The first implementation of 20 terabytes for the auto-maker’s SAP system was followed by a second of 70 terabytes. Mazda North American Operations is adding a second SAN in Canada for backup and recovery: Should the U.S. system fail, users will have access to disaster recovery in Canada and vice versa, said DiMarzio.

Compellent’s management tool, included in the solution, gives Mazda North American Operations insight into capacity planning that helps the company’s budgeting, said Sookwongse. NetApp offered this, but charged an additional $50,000 for the add-on software, he said. Likewise, Copilot Support delivers around-the-clock, free technical support to complement Sidepath’s support, Sookwongse added. The support center has information about Mazda North American Operations’ system, and doesn’t waste asking background questions, he said.

"It’s almost like an extension of our own staff," added DiMarzio. "They’re able to help us right away. It’s all part of the package."

Because of all these capabilities and improvements, the auto-maker plans to migrate all its NetApp storage to Dell Compellent, DiMarzio said.

During Mazda North American Operations’ review of Compellent and Sidepath, the integrator was also coping with Dell’s acquisition of the storage manufacturer. Yet despite some concerns about the acquisition’s potential impact on personnel changes and channel policies, the purchase only benefited both Compellent and its channel, Back said.

"Personally, I was somewhat worried about Dell because working with a much larger company can take more time to get things done and have more hurdles to jump through," he recalled. "[But] we’ve got a great inside team that works with us on registering deals and quotes. The outside team is wonderful. They’re in our office all the time and we work together on a lot of things. They integrated the Compellent team into them. The Dell team helped us take on the other products. It took a little while to learn the different dynamics of Dell, but after the first few months when we could decipher who was associated with what deals it has worked very seamlessly and well."

Dell’s acquisition also helped reassure DiMarzio that the storage vendor would be around for the foreseeable future, he said.

"That’s when the worry I had about them being around ended," DiMarzio said. "It’s important for us to know people are going to be around for the long-term."

Further cementing the relationship between Dell, Sidepath, and Mazda North American Operations, Dell partnered with Mazda for the recent Rolex 24 and got behind-the-scenes access to the SpeedSource team in car number 70. Dell and Mazda North America partnered to host a VIP raceway event during the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 race at the Daytona International Speedway.  During the event, attendees met the drivers behind the wheel of car number 70, the latest Mazda RX-8 GT series, and cheered the team on to its sixth-place position at the finish line.