Online dating firm finds itself attracted to storage area network

An online dating company has formed a relationship with a vendor to provide the storage needs of the growing customers getting together on its Web sites.

Vintacom Media Group ULC, a subsidiary of Think Partnership Inc., develops online dating software and social networking applications aimed at the North American market. Its properties include DreamMates.com, PassionatePersonals.com, FlirtOverFifty.com, CocktailConnection.com and MeetForCoffee.com. It also has partnerships with more than 150 other properties, including American Greetings, Great Expectations, Intermix, dating.com and Canwest Interactive.

For online dating company Vintacom, technology is its business. While peak hours for hits are between 7pm to 10pm, the company’s dating sites get hits at all hours of the day and night – so being up 24-by-seven is crucial. But the company’s aging technology wasn’t scaleable enough to meet the demands of its growing Web properties and internal network, as well as the properties that it hosts for other online dating companies.

Vintacom went through a technology refresh last year to improve network performance at its Edmonton head office, which included Dell PowerEdge 6850 servers and a Dell CX500 storage area network (SAN). Previously, it had four aging database servers, so it had to set up a failover and replication routine for each of those servers. With its technology refresh, the company has consolidated those four systems down to one cluster so it’s easier to manage.

When clients do a search on one of its online dating sites, there’s a lot of reading and writing involved – and there are a lot of users on a site at the same time. “So we need quick and fast responses,” said Terry Schultz, vice-president of information technology with Vintacom. “We’re talking under millisecond responses for these members or they’ll notice that it runs slow. No one likes to wait for a page to load.”

A lot of SANs are based on how much hard drive space is available, he added. “We base it mainly on how fast the hard drives go and how many we can put together.”

In addition to its own sites, the company provides business-to-business solutions to other online dating companies. Its Relationship Exchange (RE) is an umbrella that allows other companies to share a database of millions of potential “singles.” Once a client is acquired, that client’s personal information becomes the property of the site they’re registered with. Vintacom currently has more than 150 partners in its Relationship Exchange.

“A lot of companies want to get into dating but want to have their own brand,” said Schultz. “We host it, we run it, we take care of everything – the only thing they have to take care of is the marketing end of it.”

Dell has one-third of the server market in Canada, and it’s maintaining that lead, according to Michelle Warren, IT industry analyst with Partner Research Corp. “They’re able to do that because of their price but also their service levels,” she said.

Dell works with a network of authorized service professionals – though not necessarily resellers – which gives them a local presence. “Vintacom would be interested in that local presence,” she added. Dell also has a strong supply chain and inventory levels, she said, and not all vendors can provide that consistently.

Last year, Dell captured between 33-35 per cent of the server market in Canada (depending on the quarter), while HP and IBM ran neck-in-neck for second and third place (around 21 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively). These three vendors are expected to continue in the top three, but Warren said HP is getting more aggressive in this space.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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