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Comcast Cable is one of the world’s largest video, high-speed Internet and phone providers to residential customers and businesses. Comcast has invested in technology to build an advanced network that delivers among the fastest broadband speeds and brings customers personalized video, communications and home management offerings. Comcast is also one of the largest email environments in the world, with more than 30 million mailboxes.

Solution Components

  • Zimbra 8

“The Scality RING solution helped achieve continued « reductions in price-per-gigabyte and price-per-IOPS costs.”

Andrei Gasheyev Internet Services Architect, Comcast
Powered by the Scality RING, Comcast Serves Over 30 Million Mailboxes with Greater Flexibility and Resilience

The Challenges

Comcast was seeking to add additional email storage capacity. At the same time, the company was moving forward with a multi-phase transformation toward a more cloud-driven, stateless, and efficient infrastructure. Scality was able to help support an important component of that work.
An email storage environment of this size has unique characteristics:

  • Massive Scale – billions of objects and multiple petabytes
  • Relentless Workload – high-churn small and large files
  • Complex Application and Data Relationship – geographically distributed users, data availability and durability requirements

Prior to 2013, Comcast was running email server application Zimbra 6 and storing email using a block storage SAN (storage area network). Comcast used hierarchical storage management (HSM) to migrate and manage the data across a complex arrangement of five tiers of storage.

The Solution

The best balance

Comcast’s move to a new storage solution involved consultation and experimentation with the Scality team to strike the best balance between all of Comcast’s goals. For example, an early deployment was done on smaller servers with 10x3TB data drives, with a later expansion on higher density servers from a different server manufacturer, with 15x4TB data drives. Ultimately Comcast deployed hundreds of data servers with a mix of 3TB and 4TB SATA drives in multiple data centers paired with Scality’s connector for Zimbra 8.

Maintaining a Balanced System and Creating a Stateless System

  • When Comcast added capacity after its initial deployment, creating a heterogeneous hardware environment, it wanted to rebalance mailboxes and data based on server capacity and capabilities. After implementing the new solution with the Scality RING, Comcast is now better able to move mailboxes to balance out the system and infrastructure.
  • Moving forward, Comcast is working to further automate processes so that mailboxes automatically balance themselves in near real-time. In its previous SAN environment, a significant amount of data had to be moved to achieve this, which increased the chances for errors to occur; it’s more susceptible to corruption, fragmentation, or failure. Comcast has found that with the Scality RING these operations are significantly easier and involve less risk, and mailboxes can be moved and balanced with little-to-no data movement.

Since going into production in 2013, Scality’s RING storage solution has been a valuable addition to Comcast’s continued evolution towards a cloud-scale, software-powered infrastructure. Using Scality technology, Comcast has made its email system more flexible, resilient, and high performance, creating a better product for customers, while also realizing operational efficiencies and cost savings.

Primary Benefits of Scality RING for Comcast

Hardware Flexibility, Capacity and Rackspace

Scality allows businesses to have data storage on standard x86 servers, instead of closed SAN appliances.

Operations

Prior to implementation of RING, Comcast regularly moved mailboxes from one SAN-enabled host to another
in order to manage capacity, file system directory sizes, file system inodes and available IO. These were
complex operations, made more complex as a result of the large number of HSM tiers.

Advanced Data Protection

The RING’s erasure coding (EC) technology, provides data protection and resilience. The RING uses
policy to determine when to apply EC based on object size – this provides a mechanism to balance IO and
capacity needs.

Self-Healing

Self-Healing – the ability of the system to bounce back from issues, or to reallocate resources to avoid
downtime when particular components of the solution fail is an essential design tenet for Comcast’s platforms
and services.

Dedicated Care Services

Comcast enjoys access to Scality expertise throughout the project lifecycle – from design through operational support and maintenance.

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