Open Link Financial avoids forklift upgrade, saves six figures with NetApp V-Series

Keeping up with the flow of trade, especially in complex, volatile markets such as energy, requires an extraordinary eye for detail to spot opportunities and identify risk in near real time. Computers, of course, are very good at this—if they're running the right software.

Founded in 1992, Open Link Financial (OpenLink) is a software vendor specializing in trading, risk management, and operations processing solutions for energy and financial markets. With about 850 employees, OpenLink is headquartered on Long Island in Uniondale, New York, and maintains offices around the world, as well as a disaster recovery (DR) data center in Andover, Massachusetts. OpenLink's core application is developed at the Long Island location, while customization and business analysis are done at the local offices.


OpenLink supports various versions of Oracles and Microsoft SQL Server databases as the back end for its solution, although Oracle is most widely used among its customer base. The company wanted a more flexible storage architecture that would allow it to make the most cost-effective use of storage capacity for Oracle development, as well as its growing VMware environment. "Our traditional storage architecture was all Fibre Channel," explains Thomas Mertz, Director of Global MIS for Open Link Financial, who is responsible for global standards and policies surrounding IT. "It was all LUN based, so every time we created a LUN we were wasting all that space, whether it was used or not. We didn't have any thin provisioning, deduplication, or replication capabilities, and we wanted more flexibility."

At the company's DR facility in Andover, an HP Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) SAN was reaching capacity. Adding more shelves would require upgrading to the next-largest HP model—a "forklift' upgrade that would require planned downtime and a large capital investment.


Over the years, OpenLink had come to rely on Marcum Technology LLC for a variety of network and technology consulting services. In 2007, Marcum, a participant in the NetApp Partner Program, introduced Mertz and his staff to the capabilities of NetApp storage.

"Database and VMware performance has been great with NetApp storage. The Direct NFS Client on Oraclellg has been solid"

Thomas Mertz 
Director of Global MIS, Open Link Financial

Marcum installed a NetApp FAS3140 cluster at OpenLink's primary data center on Long Island to provide additional connectivity options to supplement the company's Sun'" StorageTek`" SAN. To avoid a forklift upgrade in Andover while extending the useful life of its HP storage investment, the company added a NetApp V3140 open storage controller.

At the time, OpenLink was in the process of virtualizing most of its servers. With the exception of production database servers, OpenLink's server infrastructure is now almost entirely virtualized on VMware vSphere'" 4.

"The Sun StorageTek and HP EVA did not match up with VMware technology as well as NetApp did in terms of being able to do thin provisioning on NFS volumes," says Mertz. "We also wanted to do asynchronous replication of our virtual environment between Long Island and Andover. Marcum showed us how NetApp technology was a better fit."


Making the most of capacity with NetApp unified storage OpenLink now has the freedom to use NAS-NFS and NAS-GIPS protocols directly with the NetApp storage for Oracle and VMware, while still using Fibre Channel LUNs for its Microsoft SQL Server hosts.

"For Oracle and VMware, I no longer have to worry about overprovisioning LUNs and wasting space," Mertz explains. "With NFS, if a virtual machine is 100GB and it only has 10G6 inside it, then iYs only using 10GB on the disk—I don't end up with 90G8 of wasted space on a LUN."

NetApp FlexVol~ software enables OpenLink to create virtual volumes that can be managed and move independently from physical storage, further reducing the amount of storage capacity required. "With NetApp thin provisioning, I can have four 2T6 volumes and really only have 5TB of aggregate behind it," says Mertz. "And then I can add more storage as usage increases."

NetApp deduplication is yet another space saving technology that is well suited to virtual server farms and file share environments, which tend to contain many redundant data objects. "We're saving around 50% of the total storage capacity we would require for our VMware environment by using NetApp deduplication," Mertz confirms. "We've moved our CIFS shares over to NetApp storage, and deduplication is saving us 35%there as well."

OpenLink has made no sacrifice on performance by moving away from Fibre Channel LUNs. "Database and VMware performance has been great with NetApp storage," says Mertz. "NFS over 10-gigabit Ethernet actually provides more bandwidth than our Fibre Channel, which is four gigabit. The Direct NFS Client on Oraclellg'" has been solid."

Six-figure cost avoidance with NetApp V-Series
By using the NetApp V3140 to manage its HPA EVA in Andover, OpenLink gets the functionality and management benefits of NetApp storage while still utilizing the capacity of the legacy EVA. "We can continue to grow without throwing away our prior storage investment," says Mertz. "The NetApp V-Series allowed us to continue to use the storage on the EVA with the NetApp software features. In a way, it wound up being an upgrade for the existing EVA."

OpenLink considered upgrading to the next-largest model in the HP EVA product line, but cost and flexibility concerns made the NetApp V3140 a better choice. "We already had NetApp in our Long Island data center, and we knew we wanted that same functionality in Andover," says Mertz. "The EVA just couldn't provide the same feature set. We also didn't want the hassle and downtime involved with getting a new EVA, migrating all the data, and selling the old one back. That's really not the way I want to operate. Plus it would have been well into six figures to do the upgrade with HP."

Backups in minutes, not days Open Link Financial now relies on NetApp Snapshot'" technology to back up files, Oracle and SQL data, SharePoint~, and virtual machines in minutes. Snapshot copies can be taken at regular intervals to provide more recovery points without impacting performance. "Previously, doing a full backup took the whole weekend," says Mertz. "Now, we back up our VMware infrastructure every day, and it takes 20 minutes."

NetApp SnapManager~ for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, SnapManager for Microsoft SQL Server, SnapManager for Oracle, and SnapManager for Virtual Infrastructure automate the point-in-time copy process. NetApp SnapRestore~ allows recovery in minutes or even seconds, depending on the amount of data.

"We're using SharePoint for workflow and collaboration, and SnapManager for SharePoint automates our backup processes and allows us to recover data easily from snapshots," says Mertz. "SnapManager for Virtual Infrastructure has been invaluable— it cuts out a lot of manual steps for us, and it's very easy to use."

Twofold improvement in RTO
To simplify its DR strategy and improve its recovery time objective (RTO), OpenLink is using NetApp SnapMirror~ software to asynchronously replicate only changed data blocks over a private WAN once a day from Long Island to the NetApp V3140 in Andover. Riverbed Steelhead appliances from NetApp partner Riverbed Inc. accelerate the WAN transfer.

"We had a DR plan in place before, but it relied on off-site tapes and scripted WAN transfers," says Mertz. "SnapMirror gives us the ability to test the plan much more easily and more frequently. Recovering from tape at the DR site would have taken two to three days; now our RTO is one day or less, because the data is already sitting on the SAN in Andover."

30% less storage required for Oracle 
By using NetApp FlexClone software to create virtual, writable clones of data sets without requiring additional storage space, Open Link Financial has been able to greatly reduce the amount of disk space it must dedicate to application development. "We have 35T8 of Oracle data and 10TB of SQL data," says Mertz. "The ability to provide support, QA, and development with thin provisioned FlexClones of volumes has saved us about 30% of our storage for Oracle alone."

The technology also helps OpenLink optimize test/dev cycles and service its customers faster. "Say a customer has an upgrade project," says Mertz. "We might need 10 copies of a database for testing, and if iYs a 400G8 database that's a heck of a lot of space. FlexClone lets us create thin provisioned copies, so the only extra space we need to use is for the changes. After the initial database is created, we can get to work on customer issues quickly, since the FlexClones are created in minutes instead of hours."

Proactive reporting and support OpenLink is using NetApp Operations Manager to produce comprehensive reports on disk utilization and I/O. "It's a good way to see if we have any hot spots in the aggregate," says Mertz. "We recently added disk shelves to our VMware environment, and the first thing we did was go into Operations Manager, which showed that all the drives were being utilized around 30%, I've since added more shelves, and now every drive is being utilized around 20%."

"We're saving around 50% of the total storage capacity we would require for our VMware environment by using NetApp deduplication"

Thomas Mertz 
Director of Global MIS, Open Link Financial


High tech

The challenge
Expand storage options to conserve disk space; leverage and scale legacy storage without "forklift" upgrade.

The solution
Move critical workloads to NetApp® unified storage; front-end legacy SAN with NetApp V-Series.


  • Saved six figures by avoiding HP forklift upgrade
  • Greater flexibility by using NFS
  • 50% savings in storage capacity for VMware® with deduplication
  • 30%savings in storage capacity for Oracle with NetApp FlexClone®
  • Twofold improvement in RTO



NeWpp products

  • FAS3140 system
  • V3140 controller
  • FlexClone and FlexVol software
  • Operations Manager software
  • SnapDrive® for Windows software
  • SnapManager for Microsoft SharePoint
  • Server, SQL Server, Oracle,
  • and Virtual Infrastructure software
  • SnapMirror, SnapRestore, and
  • Snapshot software

NetApp Global Services

  • Storage Infrastructure Implementation Service
  • NetApp SupportEdge Premium with Premium AutoSupport




  • Applications: Microsoft Office
  • SharePoint Server 2007
  • Databases: Oracle 9i, 10g, 11g;
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2000, 2005, 2008
  • Server Platform: HP ProLiant servers
  • running VMware vSphere, Microsoft
  • Windows Server, Oracle Linux®,
  • Red Hat Linux, Solaris'"
  • Users: 850

Marcum Technology LLC

Riverbed Technology

Marcum Technology