“In truth, we are waiting for a drive to break. Once it does, we will verify the malfunction countermeasures, and so be able to verify front-end use if there is a problem.” - Miyuko Yoshida, Facilitator Digital Knowledge Co Ltd.
The Digital Knowledge Co Ltd, which is a specialist e-learning company, provides a full range of services from content to operations and promotion. We asked Miyuko Yoshida, director and platform department chief, about their reasons for introducing QNAP products and also their evaluation of them.
Development platforms and backup solutions
Tell us about Digital Knowledge Co Ltd.
Digital Knowledge is a specialist e-learning solutions vendor. Since its establishment in 1995, it has set up customized e-learning classes and helped in their successful operation in over 500 schools, corporations and business training departments.
Our characteristics are that we offer consistency from our unique software products to solution configuration, the provision of operators and school promotions. We conceptualize ourselves as a "learning bridge" between the teaching institution and the student.
Tell us about the background to the introduction of QNAP products.
The shape of e-learning itself has changed greatly. For example, what started with the use of flash and the creation of interactive content, now demands much more capacity and much higher quality. The storage requirements have become very large. A 300MB hard disk on a single server used to be enough capacity, but nowadays, 1 or 2TB is normal.
In general e-learning content is not disposable and there is value in information as knowledge… even if it is five years old. Customers expect to be able to store content they might only access a few times each year. This means that in e-learning Long Tail data will be stored in great quantity. Our mission is to securely back up content that is important to the customer.
We are constantly searching for stable, low-cost solutions for backups that are compatible with The Long Tail and development environments to create large-capacity content.
Verifying virtual platforms using the evaluation model loan service
Tell us about the circumstances surrounding the introduction of QNAP TS-459Pro.
We were searching for storage that could be configured to the VMware virtual environments used by developers. Here, the first problem to arise was cost. VMware-compatible storage products, which are essential for operating multiple servers in a virtual environment, generally cost more than two million yen per set. There is also the option of configuring the development environment in the data center, but of course the cost escalates and becomes unrealistic.
At this time, we encountered QNAP, and used their evaluation model loan service.
Tell us about the impressions you gained having used the evaluation loan model service.
We already had several virtual environments and had identified a reduction in the cost of operating performance at our company. We also understood the advantages of moving storage from the server to the outside. By using the comparatively inexpensive QNAP products, we were able to verify whether or not we could achieve a significant improvement in performance. You could say that we were able to take up the challenge of new tests.
Did you compare them with the products of other companies?
We made a data comparison. However, the products from other companies cannot be tested without making a purchase, so we tested QNAP using their evaluation model loan service, and immediately decided on its introduction.
What configuration are you using?
QNAP is connected to two physical servers running VMware, and is operating 25 virtual machines simultaneously. These are all development environments, so there is no rush for access to multiple virtual machines, and so there are no major performance problems.
Using backups and temporary areas
Tell us about the reasons behind the introduction of another QNAP TS-809-RP.
We started using QNAP TS-459Pro in a virtual environment after the storage for backing up the e-learning content in the data center had been corrupted. Immediate countermeasures had been necessary and we contacted Unity who immediately sent us a QNAP product. They made all the arrangements and the replacement.
Initially we received a TS-459Pro, but this is a stand-alone device and could not be housed in the data center rack, so we changed to the TS-809-RP rack mount model.
What configuration are you using for the QNAP TS-809U-RP?
The backup server is connected directly using cross cables, and is used for data storage. It is likely that the good performance we have is a consequence of using this network related configuration. Throughput on this side of the network is also good.
How are you using these devices?
Basically, they are used as backup storage. The amount of backup content that comes in each evening differs by about 1TB and there are no particular problems.
Furthermore, when preparing content transfer, or a new server within the data center, they are used when a temporary area is required. This is because these are backup and temporary area operations. During server maintenance the other day the hard disk crashed, and so we used the backup taken by saving the entire system. Backups are run at night, so we can operate a system that works during the day.
Affordable high performance
Give us a few reasons for the introduction of QNAP products.
1. Affordable high performance
There are also no CPU performance problems, there is a certain capacity, and the TB unit cost is considerably less than for regular storage products. The QNAP TS-809-RP has eight 1-TB drives installed. This capacity would cost around a million Yen from other vendors. As our system cost less than 1/3 of this amount, our cost performance is excellent.
2. Linkups to virtual environments.
It was necessary to create linkups to virtual solutions, starting with VMware, and to be able to configure virtual environments that it will be necessary to expand in the future.
3. Ability to handle with a sense of closeness.
It is evident also that the components incorporated at this cost are functioning and there is a tangible sense of security that is both great and small. Analogies of what is happening are easy to make at the desktop level, and there is also a close and safe feeling of appreciation of the configuration as a machine.
In truth, we are currently waiting for a failure drive.
Waiting for opportunities to verify malfunction countermeasures
Tell us why you are waiting for a failure drive.
Because we want to verify data incorruptibility and malfunction recovery. We are also referencing the manual, so we have a fair image, but we want to verify how long actual recovery from a malfunction would take, and the performance during the recovery from a malfunction.
Tell us your reasons for verifying incorruptibility.
As I said earlier, we are promoting the switch to The Long Tail for e-learning content. Also, depending on the client, there is a desire to keep distribution costs down. When responding to ideas about suitable materials for a location, we investigate whether it is possible to introduce QNAP products.
The incorruptibility and redundancy for use at the service front end complies with the catalog specifications. Conditions such as alerts if a malfunction occurs and status display lamps are also satisfactory. However, we want to decide what products can be incorporated into proposals to customers by verifying the feeling of incorruptibility as a real thing.
Furthermore, the stage at which the service life of the products currently in use as backup storage has been reached has also come into question.
Full supply of information in Japanese
Tell us about anything you like about QNAP products and Unity.
QNAP is a non-Japanese manufacturer, and I feel it would be good to increase the information available in Japanese online. During a search, I can obtain considerable information, but much of it is in English. I find it regrettable that the details are sometimes difficult to follow. I would like the nurturing of this community to be better supported. Furthermore, I would not mind if the price were increased considerably. This would make the development of a high-end model, that uses a configuration that could be called standard, to make introduction easier.
Thank you very much for taking time out from your busy schedule today to talk to us.
Date of interview: August 2010