“Qumulo came along at the perfect time for us, and couldn’t be a better fit for what we need to do.”

Nathan Larsen, Director of IT

ABOUT

Sinclair Oil is a $7B petroleum corporation based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Its vertically integrated petro operations run from exploration, drilling, and production, all the way to distribution and retail. The company’s operations also include a hospitality division, which manages the Grand America Hotels and Resorts chain.

USE CASE
  • Digitization initiative for an oil and gas company
REQUIREMENTS
  • Efficient storage for millions of small files
  • Real-time visibility into data usage and performance
  • Storage that is easy to manage

Sinclair Oil Expands its Digital Repositories with Qumulo

Evolving storage needs makes obsolete technology extinct

Sinclair Oil imported hundreds of thousands of documents to a new digital repository and found that its old storage platform couldn’t keep up. Qumulo, an enterprise-prove hybrid cloud file storage system, gave Sinclair the performance it needed, and the data visibility necessary to properly monitor the rapidly growing digital system.

Widely known for its iconic green brontosaurus logo, Sinclair found that its previous data storage solution, located at one of its two refineries in rural Wyoming, was itself becoming a dinosaur. The problem surfaced as Sinclair adapted to new petro industry standards demanding digital documentation and cataloguing of corporate processes and infrastructure. For Sinclair this meant converting and storing hundreds of thousands of documents covering procedures, safety protocols, piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs), spec sheets, and more.

Unfortunately Sinclair’s existing legacy storage platform, a cluster of highly virtualized NetApp servers, wasn’t up to the challenge of housing the company’s vast new digital asset repository.

“We chose EMC’s Documentum platform as the document management system, and in implementing it realized that our storage just wasn’t designed to handle the resulting millions of individual files,” said Nathan Larsen, Director of IT at Sinclair Oil. “It created undue overhead that began impacting the production environment housing the SQL servers and other critical systems, so we knew we needed to make a change.”

Image of silhouetted oil dereks at sunset

For growing systems, visibility becomes increasingly crucial and increasingly difficult

Moreover, with its existing legacy storage platform, there was no easy way to track the digital transition’s progress, or its impact on storage capacity and performance, without running labor-intensive manual reports and walking the entire file system tree. Given the rapid speed of the digitization process, by the time those reports were eventually available, they would already be out-of-date.

Larsen and his team began the search for a modern file storage platform. Initially, Sinclair considered simply updating its existing NetApp infrastructure, or since they were already using EMC’s Documentum platform, adopting EMC’s Isilon scale-out NAS solution. But once Larsen learned of Qumulo, the right answer became apparent.

“We really pounded on the system for several months of testing, and the Qumulo appliances were rock solid throughout. That’s when I knew we were ready for production at our refinery.”


Nathan Larsen, Director of IT

Qumulo is an enterprise-proven file storage system that delivers real-time visibility into data usage and performance at petabyte scale. Larsen was attracted by the immediate and actionable insights into data usage and storage performance – both of which would be critical for Sinclair’s digital repository.

What tipped the scale for Larsen was Qumulo’s two-week software development and release cycles, which rapidly incorporate customer feedback into new software features.

“We use the same agile methodology at Sinclair, and I’ve seen first-hand the ability to drive good products into production, so much faster than with traditional 18-month monolithic releases,” said Larsen. “Given Qumulo’s existing lead on its competitors, I knew that its fast development pace would help keep the file system out in front of our needs.”

BENEFITS
  1. Increases performance to handle the millions of files and high IOPS needed for large document management repository
  2. Delivers the data insight needed to track digitization process and impact on storage subsystems
  3. Responds to changing business needs through rapid two-week software development and release cycles
  4. Eliminates administrative overhead with straightforward deployment and simple management
  5. Ensures ongoing peace of mind with proactive, knowledgeable Qumulo customer success

Easy deployment gives peace of mind to a delighted team

Sinclair deployed four QC24 flash-first hybrid storage appliances into its central data center for three months of testing. “And, I do mean ‘quickly’ deployed,” said Larsen. “I don’t think the Qumulo engineer was here for even an hour. We just popped in some IP addresses and off it went; the deployment was so quick and painless it shaved off weeks of fiddling that comes with traditional storage systems.”

Larsen and his team ran the Qumulo cluster through its paces, using several SQL virtual machines and SMB shares to replicate heavy I/O loads and massive file transfers. “We really pounded on the system for several months of testing, and the Qumulo appliances were rock solid throughout. That’s when I knew we were ready for production at our refinery,” he said.

With the new system in place, Larsen’s team confirmed that Qumulo provided not only the scalability and performance required for Sinclair’s document management, but also the real-time visibility needed to assess system usage. The Qumulo dashboard is available through any browser, and its REST API allows for easy report customization or integration into other data systems.

“Qumulo has given us insight into our systems and storage that we just didn’t have before,” said Larsen. “I can pop into the administration console and immediately see where we’re at from an IOPS standpoint, how many files we have, and when the newest files were uploaded, all of which is tremendously useful for understanding how we’re using storage.”

Close up of a set of pipeilines leading to an oil refinery in the distance

Infrastructure you don’t have to think about

According to Larsen, the Qumulo file system hasn’t been just amazingly fast and highly visible, but also largely hands-free. “We just watch our emails for alerts, and when the new Qumulo software updates are released we run them that night. Otherwise, it just does its thing. There’s really no comparisons to our earlier storage systems. Qumulo is just so straightforward and easy-to-use,” Larsen said.

And, if Larsen’s team ever does need help, he knows he can turn to the Qumulo customer success team.

“Qumulo Care is absolutely phenomenal – the best support I’ve seen from any vendor,” Larsen said. “The team is very proactive, knowledgeable, and really strives to make a personal connection. I even have the cell number for my tech liaison. It’s been a real pleasure to deal with Qumulo.”

With newfound confidence in its ability to manage storage, Sinclair has already been exploring ways to expand its Qumulo deployment, starting with a move of all of the refinery plant’s 3D renderings onto Qumulo appliances.

“Qumulo came along at the perfect time for us, and couldn’t be a better fit for what we need to do,” concluded Larsen.

“Qumulo Care is absolutely phenomenal – the best support I’ve seen from any vendor. The team is very proactive, knowledgeable, and really strives to make a personal connection. I even have the cell number for my tech liaison. It’s been a real pleasure to deal with Qumulo.”


Nathan LarsenDirector of IT

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