All-Flash Case Study: The Clutch Group – 85% Faster Apps

Which came first, the Success or the Flash?

It is said that success breeds success, but sometimes success breeds flash which then breeds more success. This was the case for Litigation Consulting and Compliance firm, The Clutch Group. After landing one of the largest eDiscovery projects in History, they knew they needed to do more than just upgrade their storage infrastructure, they needed to overhaul it. Instead of counting on another disk based system, IT Director KJ Stillabower decided it was time to look at an all-flash array.

The Clutch Group’s choice? XtremIO from EMC. Thanks to an 85% application performance improvement, that selection allowed the Clutch Group to plow through this initial eDiscovery case and paved the way for many more projects. Beyond performance, the big win for The Clutch Group has been XtremIO’s data efficiency, scalability and as KJ puts it “brain dead simple” storage operations. So simple are those operations that they no longer have a dedicated storage administrator.

Who is the Clutch Group?

The Clutch Group provides litigation, compliance and legal services to major Fortune 500 companies. They have evolved over the years and so has the scope of their work. Starting as a legal staffing company, they have since become a leading provider of legal services to major Fortune 500 firms around the world. One of the key differentiators is an aggressive portfolio of technology, and leveraging data analytics to help their clients find results faster.

The Problem with Success

Upon scale up of that massive eDiscovery case, the firm’s storage system was beginning to be tapped out. Even though they were using direct attached 15K RPM hard drives their environment still exhibited 200 milliseconds of latency. The rebuilds of the MS-SQL based eDiscovery software they were using typically took all night, and they were not able to deliver the superior 24×7 experience that Clutch’s users and clients expect. At that point Clutch’s IT Team was up against the wall. But the selection of EMC’s XtremIO eliminated any concern about performance literally overnight.

Prior to winning this large eDiscovery case the storage capacity demands of the firm were measured in GB, but the firm grew rapidly and six months into the project they needed multiple TBs of capacity. Now thanks to the firm’s success, there is almost no end in sight to the capacity demands. Plus the increase in capacity requirements comes in spurts based on how quickly projects are created. They needed a system that could scale quickly and cost efficiently.

Clutch counted on XtremIO’s simple scalability to add additional nodes so that this new capacity could be added without disruption. The ability to deduplicate and compress all this data curbed the growth of storage, and now Clutch can add additional IT projects almost for “free” from a budget justification perspective.

For example Clutch recently embarked on a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) project and they are able to cost justify it based almost solely on storage savings. Stillabower projects that the entire project will consume less than 100GBs of storage, thanks to deduplication and compression. And of course the users are thrilled with the performance of their virtual desktops.

The VDI project is also evidence of XtremIO’s ability to support mixed workloads. Clutch put the VDI environment on the same frame as the MS-SQL based eDiscovery environment and neither exhibited any loss of performance.

The Selection Process

The Clutch Group’s selection of XtremIO is interesting in that they were not a prior EMC customer. In fact the eDiscovery environment, with its 15k RPM drives was all direct attached storage (DAS). When Stillabower decided that flash might be a good idea, he called in the who’s-who of all-flash systems, but XtremIO was a late entry to the list of candidates. Also, unlike many other all-flash decision processes, Clutch had all of these flash arrays running side by side. While all of the systems met their requirements for performance, only XtremIO had the scale-out architecture they were after.

XtremIO was also one of the few that could provide the scaling needed to keep pace with their rapid growth. In fact Stillabower believes that had they chosen one of the other systems they would have already had to buy a second, and maybe third, independent system to keep pace. Obviously this would have dramatically increased both hardware acquisition and storage management costs. They certainly would have had to dedicate an IT staffer to managing storage. As icing on the cake, XtremIO also won the price battle as well.

What’s Next

One of the most powerful capabilities of all-flash storage systems like XtremIO is that it enables “next”. It frees IT staffs from the time consuming drudgery of trying to extract more performance from hard drive based systems and allows them to focus on innovation. The Clutch Group is no different. Next up they want to migrate off of Office 365. This move is motivated by client concerns around security and compliance. At the end of the day their clients want the reassurance of an on-premise solution. While not a typical performance sensitive workload, XtremIO enables this because of its efficient use of storage capacity. As was the case with their VDI implementation they can migrate off of Office 365 almost for “free” from a storage accounting perspective and it certainly will take advantage of the performance.

Beyond an Office 365 de-migration, the Clutch Group recently moved their audio analysis application, AudioIQ, to the platform. AudioIQ allows for the analysis of audio recordings common in a variety of businesses. Instead of having to pay someone to linearly sift through these recordings, the application allows that to occur digitally. XtremIO enables that digital analysis to be very fast.

The Clutch Group is in an industry where success and survival means finding ways to be more efficient. They have to be faster than their competitors while maintaining operating margins and scaling. EMC XtremIO allows their storage infrastructure to be an enabler of that success instead of an inhibitor.

This independently developed document is sponsored by EMC

George Crump is the Chief Marketing Officer of StorONE. Prior to StorONE, George spent almost 14 years as the founder and lead analyst at Storage Switzerland, which StorONE acquired in March of 2020. In his spare time, he continues to write blogs on Storage Switzerland to educate IT professionals on all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought-after public speaker. With over 30 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS, SAN, Virtualization, Cloud, and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration, and product selection.

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