Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More., that romantic cyber-space place where people meet and often get serious relationships off and running, has been a textbook example of a successful Web 2.0 company since it made its debut six years ago.

With more than 8 million users, Pasadena, Calif.-based eHarmony claims to be the Internet’s fastest-growing relationship service. It stores background text information for each registrant plus more than 9 million digital photos.

In the background, it has its own “secret sauce” matchmaking application to pair up registrants scientifically. Plus, it runs a number of other complex customer-facing applications that require extremely high amounts of bandwidth and storage capacity.

“We don’t see the information flow slowing down anytime soon,” eHarmony vice president of technology Mark Douglas told eWEEK. “We find ourselves having to buy storage about every 90 days.”

Every 90 days? This equipment isn’t cheap, nor is it exactly plug-and-play.

To accommodate this phenomenal business growth—which literally consumes gigabytes of new capacity each day—and to support its new-business initiatives, eHarmony’s IT team found out about 18 months ago that it needed to design a heretofore-unseen flexible, consolidated storage network structure to replace its aging modular-array setup.

Load-balancing—the ability for incoming and outgoing data to be automatically directed to the first available server on a 24/7 basis—was a key requirement.

“The other solutions we considered had a learning curve and a level of complexity that we just didn’t want to undertake,” Douglas said.

“There was going to be a lot of hands-on work to do with our six years’ worth of data. We wanted a more automated system, for sure.”

After considering modular array alternatives from a conventional vendor that Douglas declined to name, eHarmony selected a 3PAR InServ S400 Storage Server for each of its data centers. 3PAR Thin Provisioning software was also chosen for use with eHarmony’s databases.

OnStor, of Campbell, Calif., provides the NAS (network-attached storage) gateways that sit in front of the 3PAR storage arrays. CommVault provides all the redundant backup, Douglas said.

3PAR also provides key parts of the storage infrastructure—another highly successful, new-generation social networking site.

Next Page: Working well together.

New system components work well together

All the new system components work seamlessly together, Douglas said.

“Buying 10-year-old storage technology doesn’t work for us,” Douglas said. “We’ve had maybe 200 percent growth in traffic the last three years. The capabilities 3PAR and OnStor brought to the table were a no-brainer. Once you understand 3PAR’s architecture, the benefits are obvious and compelling.”

3PAR’s and OnStor’s overall attitudes were forward-looking, Douglas said. “They understand what a relatively new, Web-based company like our needs.”

eHarmony’s mission-critical Web site, matchmaking application, payment processing and photo and profile servers are now supported by 3PAR arrays.

“Each of those storage arrays handles 30 terabytes of data,” Douglas said. “Since we made the changeover, we found that we are quite happy with the performance—in reliability, speed, backup and scaling.”

Douglas said he didn’t want his people managing disk drives. “With 3PAR and OnStor, we don’t have to set up and manage RAID groups,” Douglas said.

“The system is self-managing and automatically balances I/O over every drive,” Douglas said. “This lets us leverage the efficiency of RAID 5 liberally, and activities that would usually take a month to accomplish with traditional storage systems now require just a few minutes with 3PAR. That savings is huge for us.”

Storage system consolidation more cost-effective

Consolidation is a preferred method for achieving a more cost-effective, shared storage resource, but many approaches to consolidation require special training and introduce additional complexity, said John McArthur, group vice president and general manager for Information Infrastructure Research at IDC in Framingham, Mass.

“Many companies lack the expertise to manage complex shared storage pools. But 3PAR’s Utility Storage platform, which enable consolidation and avoid introducing added complexity, are ideal for these companies,” McArthur said.

eHarmony strives to bring IT projects to its market quickly while minimizing the cost of delivering and supporting those projects, Douglas said.

By consolidating its entire system into 3PAR Utility Storage, eHarmony was able to avoid costly incremental investment in IT expertise, including the need to hire a database administrator and a SAN administrator.

The reduction in storage complexity also freed existing administrative resources to pursue key growth projects, Douglas said.

eHarmony also uses 3PAR Virtual Copy for flexible and efficient array-based snapshots.

With 3PAR Virtual Copy, eHarmony has improved the availability of its mission-critical applications by taking hourly snapshots of all related databases.

eHarmony’s IT department also retains these snapshots for up to a week to enable rapid recovery from multiple points in time.

They also perform non-disruptive, off-host backups of their databases from these snapshots, Douglas said.

Lastly, eHarmony was able to connect multiple host servers directly to each of its InServ Storage Servers, saving the company additional expenditures on redundant, switched SAN environments.

OnStor gateway capabilities

The OnStor NAS Gateway’s key benefits, as listed by the company, include:

  • Open storage: Customers can use the storage of your choice, including 3PAR, EMC, HDS, IBM, HP and others.
  • Continuously scalable performance: N-way clustering to 8 nodes.
  • Enterprise-class capacity management: Petabyte-scalable, plus automated provisioning.
  • Zero downtime: Designed for non-disruptive maintenance.

  • Complete Windows/UNIX/Linux interoperability: Native protocols

    For more information, see the 3PAR, OnStor and CommVault Web sites.

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