Uptime Almighty

A near disaster can sometimes be turned into an opportunity to shore an organization’s IT infrastructure.

For Montréal-based PaySystems Corp., a provider of payment processing solutions for online and point-of-sale merchants, it was a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack in late January

that prompted it to re-examine its storage requirements and standardize on one vendor, says Philip Fayer, PaySystem’s CEO.

“”The DDoS plugged up all of our pipes,”” he says. “”And while it didn’t take our servers down, it just killed our availability in terms of processing requests, both internally for customer service as well externally.””

PaySystems supports up to 1.8 million unique transactions a month, says Fayer, and that’s expected to double by the beginning of next year.

“”For us, it’s a matter of uptime,”” he says. “”We hired a few network consulting companies. They designed our network for us, taking into consideration the DDoS and the bandwidth that we would need. Then we started checking third-party providers.””

PaySystems wanted to stay Intel-based, so Dell made a lot of sense, says Fayer. “”It was a no-brainer.””

It standardized on 17 Dell PowerEdge 1650 and 10 Dell PowerEdge 2650 servers, as well as purchasing a Dell/EMC CX600 storage system to protect mission-critical data relied upon by its more than 10,000 merchant customers in 79 countries. “”What we’re looking for is transaction speed and uptime,”” says Fayer.

Founded in 1998, PaySystems has been growing at an exponential pace for the past few years and now provides complete end-to-end payment processing services to clients around the world, enabling millions of credit card holders and thousands of merchants to by and sell online.

While PaySystems did mull blade servers from Sun Microsystems, Fayer says the price of deployment and management wasn’t cost-effective.

“”Sun is a good product, but the skill set required is not as readily available as (what’s available) for NT and NT-based applications.

“”For us, the actual extra cost for the Sun maintenance wasn’t justified in terms of the performance gain we were getting from Sun over Dell.””

Prior to standardizing on Dell, the company had a mix of Sun and IBM servers.

“”We have an outsourced network as well and it’s running on Dell,”” says Fayer. That network is for disaster recovery. “”It mimics what we have internally.””

Don Kerr, director, Advanced Systems Group at Dell Canada, says storage has grown to become about a quarter of Dell’s enterprise business in Canada with 85 per cent year-over-year growth. He says customers are turning to Dell because they see it as the commoditizer of the storage market. “”Their sense is . . . that we’re going to take a lot of the voodoo out of storage.”” They all also know they’re going to get a good price and good support, adds Kerr. “”The surprise to them is the quality of the professional services they can get from us around the storage solution set.””

Kerr says PaySystems, a Web-based company that is trying to be a low-cost provider in merchant transaction, is a perfect example of a Dell storage customer. “”We would line up with them ideologically very nicely.””

Something that’s been a real plus for Dell in the storage market, says Kerr, is its relationship with EMC, which gives it clout as a serious player in the data centre. “”That really repositioned us in the minds of customers.””

Alan Freedman, analyst with research firm IDC Canada in Toronto, agrees.

“”Right away that gives credibility to Dell storage offerings.”” Freedman says many enterprises already have a relationship with Dell and are comfortable with its ordering process. “”People like to deal with Dell, and if they can find good products from Dell, (those products) are going to take off.

“”Dell has done a very good job of raising its profile in the enterprise,”” he adds. “”They are getting into more business-critical and mission-critical workloads, whereas in the past they were thought of as more of a consumer company.””

Freedman says Dell has managed to grab a sizable share of the Canadian storage market with 13 per cent of storage revenues, placing it third behind HP and IBM. “”They’ve had a quick adoption.””

PaySystems is just now starting to provide POS products in the North Eastern United States after focusing on providing Internet payment protocols, says Fayer.

He says that as a relatively young company, PaySystems doesn’t have to deal with supporting legacy applications. “”We want to be fast and launch new payment products as quickly as possible.””

Because PaySystems is running on “”new breed”” technology, Fayer says it won’t have to make major changes for the next 10 years. “”A lot of the (POS) terminals today allow for Flash RAM download so that we can actually update software settings on the terminals,”” he says. “”A lot of legacy systems can’t do that.””

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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