A Case of Storage Space

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The Problem in Depth
Online photo-sharing site MyPhotoAlbum believes that web-based tools should be easy for users of any experience level to use, whether you are a photo hobbyist or a professional photographer. The company prides itself on the simplicity of its interfaces and the freedom it gives to its customers to be creative with their photographs.

"Our customers trust their memories to us, so we shouldn’t be changing their photos in any way," says Jessy Hanley, director of photo services for MyPhotoAlbum. This sentiment is the principle that guides MyPhotoAlbum as it strives to distinguish itself from other photo-sharing sites. It is also what led the company to quickly exceed the capacity of its original storage solution.

Originally, Chris Ferry, director of operations and systems administration for MyPhotoAlbum, says, "We outsourced our storage to an ISP storage array, and they handled everything." This worked wonderfully at first, but storage issues, as wel asl a desire to have more control over its product offering, began to arise. Ferry wanted to move to an in-house storage system. "We were at the provider’s mercy, and we needed to get out from under it," he says.

However, it was MyPhotoAlbum’s commitment to storing any and every photo a user cares to upload that led the company to quickly outgrow its original external ISP storage method. "When you upload a photo to a photo-sharing site, the site shouldn’t size your photo down. If you upload a 10-megapixel photo, we keep it on our server as is," Hanley says. Thus, within two years, MyPhotoAlbum was hosting more than 13 million photos, driving a tremendous growth in its storage requirements. The company was seeing its storage needs double every four months.

When Ferry began seeking out an NAS solution to its storage needs in late 2006, he first contacted all of the "big guys," but soon realized that none of them were offering what he was looking for. "When I sat down and got quotes from them, I noticed that a big trend was that, when you bought their NAS, you also had to buy their disk subsystems, which would tie us completely to that company. That would be risky," Ferry says.

"MyPhotoAlbum is typical of many enterprise customers with fast-growing storage environments who demand highly scalable solutions without the usual vendor lock-in that prevents them from achieving the lowest possible storage TCO," says Jon Toor, vice president of marketing at ONStor.

Ferry was also turned off by all of the tacked-on costs that trailed behind products from many NAS providers, including licensing fees and the cost of installation and managed services. Having identified many things he didn’t want in a vendor, Ferry continued to seek a solution that met his needs without compromising them.

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