Rathbone Brothers Plc. runs billion-dollar business on flash storage

Published on 23-Apr-2013

"When you add in the reliability and the ease of setup, the solution really ticks all the boxes for us. We are big fans." - Gerry Johnson, Technical Administration and Support Analyst, Rathbone Brothers Plc.

Customer:
Rathbone Brothers Plc.

Industry:
Financial Markets

Deployment country:
United Kingdom

Solution:
Business Resiliency, Energy Efficiency, Storage Consolidation, Workload Management

Overview

Rathbone Brothers Plc. (Rathbones) is one of the UK’s leading providers of wealth management and investment banking to private clients, charities and professional advisers. One of the country’s largest and longest-established investment management companies, Rathbones has built its success on a commitment to superior client service and conservative, highly researched portfolio management.

Business need:
Rathbone Brothers Plc, through its subsidiaries, is one of the UK’s leading providers of investment management services for private clients, charities and professional advisers.

Solution:
To boost the processing performance of its investment management systems, Rathbones selected a solid-state storage solution from Texas Memory Systems (TMS), an IBM Company, and currently runs two RamSan®-710 storage devices hosting its main investment management applications.

Benefits:
Accelerated database-intensive processing by at least 300 percent; helps reduce operational costs, consuming an eighth of the power of the original hard disk array.

Case Study

Rathbone Brothers Plc. (Rathbones) is one of the UK’s leading providers of wealth management and investment banking to private clients, charities and professional advisers. One of the country’s largest and longest-established investment management companies, Rathbones has built its success on a commitment to superior client service and conservative, highly researched portfolio management.

Today, Rathbones manages more than £17 billion in funds for some 35,000 clients. The company places a strong focus on taking advantage of innovative, leading-edge IT systems that help to ensure smooth running of its expansive operations.

Rathbones’ front and back office investment systems are built on two custom database applications supporting the full investment process from client administration to portfolio management. The front and back office systems run on the InterSystems Caché advanced object database, while Oracle is used for the trade settlement engine.

Overcoming infrastructure upgrade hurdles
In 2008, Rathbones decided to upgrade its enterprise disk storage solution. During acceptance testing, the IT team discovered that the new hard-disk array was actually running slower than its existing disk storage.

Other problems started to arise: the storage array was to be housed on an upper floor, requiring an engineering survey to ensure that the floor would support the weight; extra air conditioning was needed to handle the heat generation, and the power consumption of the new disk array was high at 4 kW.

Mark Cummins, Head of IT at Rathbone Brothers Plc., explains: “The main driver for the upgrade was to increase performance to meet the demand for real-time performance measurement and portfolio modeling solutions. Our traditional hard disk array vendors were unable to meet this demand so we needed to come up with an alternative solution.”

Betting on solid-state drive technology
Cummins and his team analyzed Rathbones’ primary database applications and identified which data really required high-speed access. The company then selected the RamSan-440 storage system from Texas Memory Systems (TMS), an IBM Company, as its strategic solid-state storage solution for transaction-based applications requiring high performance and low latency.

This was a move which was given a great deal of careful consideration, given the reputation for poor reliability that most flash-based solid-state systems had at the time. Mark Cummins elaborates: “We didn’t know about the reputation of TMS and had no experience with SSD technology, so it was quite a big decision to make. We were pretty much in the vanguard of putting our business on solid-state storage. In the end we opted for the double data rate (DDR) RAM-based RamSan-440.”

For Rathbones, the move paid off – testing of the TMS RamSan exceeded the requirement to improve application performance by 300 percent.

The only limitation for Rathbones was that since the RAM-based RamSan-440 used DDR RAM solid-state storage, its 512 GB capacity prevented the company from placing its entire production databases on RamSan storage. This is why Rathbones chose to store its most transaction-intensive databases on solid-state storage, and the remainder of its production environment on enterprise disk arrays, which came with a larger physical footprint and more expensive power and cooling demands. Following the success of this implementation, the company added two flash-based RamSan-620 systems to accelerate storage for its Microsoft Exchange email servers.

Refreshing the storage environment
When Rathbones was planning another storage technology refresh in early 2012, the company once again turned to TMS, this time opting for two flash-based RamSan-710 systems – as the technology had matured and Rathbones was more comfortable with moving to SLC flash-based storage arrays. The RamSan-710 – the predecessor to the IBM® FlashSystem 710 – is a flash storage system capable of 450,000 IOPS in a compact 1U enclosure, eliminating any weight and floor space concerns for Rathbones. To achieve similar performance, a disk-based array would require more than 1,300 drives, and occupy almost 100 disk enclosures requiring seven racks.

Flash-based RamSan-710 provides up to 5 TB of single-level cell (SLC) flash storage per system 1U, ten times the capacity of the RamSan-440. With this new freedom, Rathbones has been able to increase performance further and meet the growing demands of the business.

Rathbones has deployed two RamSan-710 systems, one in the company’s London data center and the other in its main IT operations center in Liverpool, with real-time shadowing of the databases between the two sites.

Superior performance at a lower cost
The upgrade has delivered considerable performance improvements, and reduced operational costs. While Rathbones used to devote seven to eight hours to run certain database processes overnight, the same operations now run in just 10 to 12 minutes – a 40 times improvement. With the additional capacity of the RamSan-710, the company has also migrated some intermediate files from disk-based storage to the flash-based RamSan, significantly improving the backup window.

Beyond these application performance improvements, Rathbones has gained the ongoing benefits of lower operational costs with the RamSan-710, thanks to its compact 1U footprint and 500 watt power consumption. The solution consumes an eighth of the energy consumed by the company’s original enterprise disk array.

“Our original storage took at least one full cabinet and now we’re in 1U and the power draw is minimal,” says Gerry Johnson, Technical Administration and Support Analyst at Rathbones. “When you add in the reliability and the ease of setup, the solution really ticks all the boxes for us. We are big fans.”

Supporting business-critical systems
Johnson also had praise for the sales and support teams: “The technical support people have been great, really great ­—and they don’t mind when you call them up. We get to talk to people who actually care about us as a business.”

With Texas Memory Systems’ record of reliability over four years and three product generations, Rathbones had no hesitation about trusting the primary profit-generation operations of a £17 billion business to flash systems.

Gerry Johnson concludes: “The Investment Management systems are crucial to our operations and to the management of our client business. Our initial concerns were with the reliability of solid-state storage but we’ve had no problems of any kind. The investment management business runs on flash systems.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Hardware:
Storage, Storage: IBM FlashSystem 710

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2013 IBM Corporation Systems and Technology Group Route 100 Somers, NY 10589 Produced in the United States of America April 2013 IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, FlashSystem and RamSan are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at: www.ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided.