Kingfisher aims to replace one petabyte IBM storage environment with “commoditised” systems

Kingfisher plans to commoditise its predominantly IBM storage estate after saving 60 percent on hardware costs with a HDD system from X-IO.


Kingfisher plans to commoditise its predominantly IBM storage estate after saving 40 percent on hardware costs with a HDD system from X-IO.

The UK based retail company, which owns brands such as B&Q and Screwfix, serves around six million customers every week, with 78,000 employees in nine countries and annual sales of £10.6 billion.

Kingfisher has typically been an IBM house, using products ranging from x86 servers to storage systems including DS4800 and DS300 arrays. It currently uses around one petabyte of storage across its two data centres in Fairham, comprising mostly of IBM 600GB or 900GB SAS 10k mid-range disk arrays, with storage requirements growing at a rate of approximately 20 percent each year.


Since virtualising its storage pool IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC) six years ago, Kingfisher has begun to view storage as a commodity, allowing it to look at other vendors in order to increase cost-effectiveness.

“We have got SVC which supports a massive range of storage arrays behind them so there is no reason for us to be an IBM shop from a storage point of view,” said Stuart Hartley, Kingfisher group storage architect.

“From a technology point of view I just want reliable, fast, cost-effective spinning disks or flash behind SVC, because that provides all of the smarts and does all the replication, the compression and the thin provisioning. Since I don’t need an array to do all of that, I can get one cheaper.”

He added: “In my opinion there is no real differentiation between most of the vendors in the market in terms of mid-ranged disc arrays – they are all the same stuff often made by exactly the same people. People tend to pay over the odds for the incumbent.”

Cost-effectiveness is key

Last year Kingfisher decided to implement three X-IO ISE 210s HDD systems last year, comprising of a total of 60 teraybtes, adding them to its main storage pool which supports the company’s mission critical applications, from ecommerce platforms to SAP ERP.

The company also purchased two X-IO Hyper ISE 730 hybrid HDD and SDD systems to support a pilot virtual desktop infrastructure project, which will be added to the main storage pool at a later date.

As part of the procurement process, Kingfisher spoke to a number of storage vendors, including IBM, HP and EMC, but found that the X-IO offering was significantly cheaper, costing £120,000 compared to an average of £200,000 quoted from the other vendors.

This saving of 40 percent was largely due to a longer warranty of five years, compared to three years offered by the other vendors, though Hartley said that X-IO was less expensive even without this.

“If you remove the warranty, X-IO is still slightly cheaper on the pound per gigabyte, but in terms of pound per IOP it was fairly heavily cheaper,” he said.


According to Hartley the increasing acceptance of storage virtualistion among enterprises is allowing storage staff - “a pretty conservative bunch” - to consider using alternative storage suppliers for mission critical workloads.

However he added that despite a slight reticence to move away from its traditional supplier, the X-IO systems have performed just as well as the IBM systems, and there have been no outages to date.

“The biggest thing for us being a retailer is cost, but from a storage point of view it is reliability,” he said. “I am touching wood but we haven’t had a single call logged for a disk failure or anything and it has been on the floor for quite a while now, so that is a big tick.”

The X-IO hardware currently represents a small proportion of the overall storage currently used by Kingfisher, but Hartley said the company plans to introduce more commoditised storage in future as it refreshes its infrastructure.

“From a risk point of view 60TB is not a large portion of our estate. As a toe in the water it is a nice small number that I can drop on the floor and put a workload on it and leave it for a year and see what happens,” said Hartley.

He added: “I have commoditised the storage, so as far as I am concerned [I would be willling to implement] anything that meets my performance and reliability characteristics. After that it is down to price. So would X-IO be in with a shout? Absolutely.” 

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