Epiq Systems used Data Center Business Advantage technologies to increase business agility and reduce operational expense.
Epiq Systems is a leading global provider of software and services that legal professionals use to streamline the administration of litigation, bankruptcy, and financial transactions. The company's services require hosting and processing large volumes of data. A single electronic discovery (eDiscovery) case, for example, might involve terabytes of information.
To support business growth, the company decided to add a second U.S. data center, bringing the global total to four. Epiq's IT department wanted to take full advantage of virtualization technologies, both to reduce operational expense and increase business agility. "When a client begins a new project, we often need to provision dozens of servers very quickly, sometimes the same day," says Aaron Hite, director of information technology at Epiq Systems. "We need our data center technology to be an enabler rather than an impediment."
Solution and Results
Epiq built its new data center using end-to-end Cisco® Data Center Business Advantage solutions. Company and client information resides on rack-optimized servers, which connect to Cisco Nexus 5020 Switches over lossless 10 Gigabit Ethernet, creating a unified network fabric. "Our data, storage, and management traffic now travels across a single cable from the server to the Cisco Nexus 5020 Switch," Hite says. Cisco Nexus 5020 Switches separate the different types of traffic, directing data traffic over 10 Gigabit Ethernet to redundant Cisco Catalyst® 6500 Switches, and storage traffic (both iSCSI and Fibre Channel over Ethernet [FCoE]) to the Cisco MDS 9240 Multilayer Director. Epiq connects its Gigabit Ethernet servers to the network using Cisco Nexus 2000 Fabric Extenders, which the IT department provision and manage as part of the Cisco Nexus 5020 Switch.
To protect sensitive information from disclosure or alteration, Epiq uses a variety of Cisco technologies, including Cisco ACE Application Control Engine modules, which reside in the Cisco Catalyst 6500 chassis.
Major business benefits of the Cisco Data Center Business Advantage solution for Epiq Systems include:
• Competitive advantage: With the company's previous data center model, provisioning the dozens of servers used to support a new client project could take days or weeks. "Cisco Data Center Business Advantage solutions enable us to respond to customer requests within hours instead of days, often two to four times faster than before," says Hite.
• Increased agility: When Epiq wanted to test solid-state storage, the unified fabric made it very easy to set up a test environment. "Ordinarily, setting up the solid-state storage online and mapping to the server takes a week or more," Hite says. "With FCoE, we were able to get it operating in just 20 minutes."
• Simplified cabling: Each server rack needs only one cable for the converged network adapter (CNA) and a couple of power cords. The in-rack cable count decreased from 108 cables to 8. What's more, Epiq no longer needs to dispatch expensive engineers to the data center to connect cables. Instead, a more cost-effective IT team member can set up a device in hours to access any resource, whether it is connected to Fibre Channel, iSCSI, or Ethernet networks with different firewalls, according to Hite.
• Cost avoidance: The ability to provision servers for a new case in hours instead of days saves labor costs for each case. "Simplified cable management avoided the need for one full-time employee and avoided the expense of a managed cable system," Hite says.
• Enabler for cloud computing: The Cisco Data Center Business Advantage solution consolidates Epiq's compute and storage resources and enables the IT department to securely segment them for its different business divisions. Using the Cisco ACE Application Control Engine, Epiq set up a separate context for each business division, assigning each the appropriate security policies. "Cisco ACE modules enabled us to create a virtual data center for each business unit, using one piece of equipment," Hite says. "The ability to virtually allocate resources is a huge advantage for companies that provide software and services over the Internet."
Epiq recently began replacing its rack-optimized servers with Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), which unifies network, compute, storage access, and virtualization in a single cohesive system. Faster provisioning will enable the company to add clients even more quickly and reduce management costs. Cisco Advanced Services provided validation services, reducing risk. "The Cisco UCS blurs the boundaries between IT specialties," Hite says. "IT personnel who already understand the Cisco IOS Software will be exposed to blade servers, and personnel with server experience will be exposed to VLANs. The staff is embracing the opportunity to expand their skills."