Co-Location Performance at the Best Cost per TB

Would you like to enjoy entertainment-grade video simply by connecting an HD source to any electrical outlet in your house? Or monitor your home security system from your smartphone? Sigma Designs system-on-chip (SoC) solutions make such innovations possible. 

Sigma Designs leads the industry in providing products for the connected media platforms used by service providers and consumer-equipment makers to deliver entertainment and control throughout the home. Like other semiconductor businesses, Sigma Designs competes in a world of shrinking design cycles. Market leadership depends in part on keeping design engineers productive—and that means providing fast, reliable access to critical design systems and data. Every hour of lost productivity can put schedules at risk and cost upwards of $1,000 for every engineer affected. The challenge for the Sigma Designs IT organization is to consistently deliver responsive, high-availability infrastructure, even as rampant data growth strains systems and mounting administrative and energy costs threaten always-tight budgets.

Ali Siddiqui, IT director at Sigma Designs, says that Avere Systems provided them a solution which gave the company new flexibility to deploy infrastructure for both productivity and cost advantage. “Moving our servers and storage to a distant co-located data center—with greater infrastructure protection and less expensive power —allowed us to deliver higher availability at a lower cost. At the same time, Avere technology lets us maintain a ‘local’ user experience, protecting the low-latency responsiveness engineers need to stay productive.” 

Challenge: Leverage Remote Co-location Without Degrading Performance 

At Sigma Designs headquarters in Milpitas, California, engineering teams architect SoC solutions targeted for DTV and IPTV set-top box products. Siddiqui says that business acquisitions and continually shrinking nanometer-design geometries have been driving exponential data growth. “In the past year alone our project datasets have doubled in TBs needed. To control costs as we accommodate that growth, we needed to improve utilization of our existing NetApp NAS filers. One option was to relocate our growing compute server farms (HP and Cisco UCS blades) and storage infrastructure at a co-location in Sacramento, California, where we could benefit from lower power costs and at the same time reduce risk of outages. 

“But the problem was the potential negative impact to productivity. Users remote to the NetApp would experience up to 30X higher latency. Unless we could eliminate or reduce the latency to provide an experience similar to the local end-user experience, latency would be a showstopper.”

Solution: Avere for Performance

Sigma Designs IT looked at options from, NetApp and flash-based storage vendors. “Only Avere enabled the required latency reduction,” reports Siddiqui. “During a proof-of-concept, we put our engineering workflows through the Avere systems and achieved the desired results. And working with the Avere customer support team, we had expert assistance to configure the Avere filers to fit our use-case and timely support in helping us to optimize the system. We have been using Avere Edge filers in production for about a year now.”

Benefits: Speed, Savings, Security

2-millisecond Latency

Avere FXT 3200 Edge filers deployed at Sigma Designs headquarters in Milpitas provide scalable performance with an average of 2-millisecond latency to local clients. Avere successfully shields users from the 20-30-millisecond MPLS WAN latency to NetApp core filers that support 100-plus-node compute farms and a VMware infrastructure at the Sacramento co-location facility. Some 200 Milpitas employees access applications located in Sacramento and share the network connection. Siddiqui estimates that 100 engineers access data via the Avere Edge filers and another 100 users from other departments access Oracle and other enterprise services. “Avere makes it possible for engineers to work productively at locations remote from our infrastructure. The Avere solution has helped engineering teams consistently meet very aggressive release checkpoints.”

Half the Cost, Six-month ROI

“Avere also gave us the best cost/TB,” adds Siddiqui. “Other solutions either simply could not deliver the performance required or would have been too costly—more than twice the Avere in hard dollars, plus additional IT resources for setup and maintenance. If we had to upgrade our network to a direct fiber link or a metropolitan area network, we’d also have higher recurring network-services costs. Instead, Avere made it feasible to use the co-location facility where power savings offset rent and helped us realize a six-month ROI on the project.”

Siddiqui points out additional savings realized from better utilization of storage capacity and reduced administrative costs. “We’ve been able to postpone upgrading existing NetApp systems and are managing more data without adding IT staff. With the Avere solution, we don’t have to deploy Core filers at every location to give responsive data access. That means we don’t need storage administrators at each location—backup processes are consolidated, simpler, and more reliable. This is our first Avere deployment, and will be looking at Avere to help us in future projects to increase IT’s agility to respond to the changing needs of our business.”

Reduced Risk and Reliable, Secure Access

Sigma Designs benefits from deploying infrastructure in a high-availability data center, avoiding downtime from power outages or disaster events. 

“The Avere solution has met all of our objectives: we’re successfully protecting productivity by reducing risk to business operations and consistently delivering a responsive, ‘local’ user experience, as well as controlling costs, even with high data growth,” states Siddiqui.

Ready for the Future and Cloud NAS

“Avere Cloud NAS is another important capability to consider,” adds Siddiqui, “It will give us the flexibility to leverage public cloud services. Avere AES-256 encryption will let us secure data stored in the cloud—that’s essential for protecting our intellectual property (IP) while leveraging cloud economies.”

About Sigma Designs

Sigma Designs is a leading provider of system-on-chip (SoC) solutions used to deliver entertainment and control throughout the home. The company designs and builds the essential semiconductor technologies that serve as the foundation for the world’s leading IPTV set-top boxes, DTV, connected media players, residential gateways, home control systems, and more. Headquartered in Milpitas, California, the public company operates global sales offices—including locations in Denmark, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan—with major design centers in China, Israel, and the United States.