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E-discovery firm swaps out Microsoft SQL for Oracle RAC

Outgrowing its Microsoft environment, Case Central turned to Oracle RAC to meet its scalability and availability needs.

Getting terabytes of data processed, stored and made available to users on-demand in 24 hours requires a rapidly scalable system and, for one firm, Microsoft SQL Servers were not enough.

Case Central, a privately held San Francisco-based firm, provides electronic records management for the e-discovery process via Software as a Service (SaaS).

"If a corporation has a massive, urgent case, we could handle hundreds of terabytes and we can get them up and running in 24 hours," said Ted Sergott, chief technology officer. "We allow them to take control, and we handle multi-case documents. It all comes to one location, one security model."

In business for 14 years with some very large corporations as customers, Case Central found it was outgrowing its existing infrastructure. An on-demand firm since its inception, Case Central was run entirely on the Microsoft stack until 2006, when it elected to upgrade, needing to handle massive amounts of data from new customers.

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For example, a company facing a class action lawsuit might turn to Case Central to handle the e-discovery process and require the processing of hundreds of millions of documents. The company is nearing 500 terabytes of data under its management.

"In corporate America and around the world, the vast majority of information is being created in an electronically stored format," said Steve D'Alencon, Case Central's chief marketing officer. "Fourteen years ago, the vast majority was being created on paper. There's been a big pendulum shift, so a platform that can scale given the ever-increasing amounts of electronically stored information is paramount. The platform is all scale."

So last year, Case Central migrated to Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC) running Linux on Oracle 10g databases. The company plans to upgrade to 11g, the latest Oracle database, next year.

"We liked the scale and availability that Oracle RAC gives you," Sergott said. "Unless you go to the mainframe market, there is no competitor which has that technology."

And using a mainframe environment was just not cost effective, he said. With costs in mind, Case Central did look at open source alternatives, but they still came up short in scale and availability.

The project also required some hardware investment.

"We went with Oracle RAC, and you really want to tie that to a SAN storage solution," Sergott said. "We also have our core data solution on SAN. We store millions and millions of images and put that on network storage NAS. Oracle databases pass links to both types of storage."

Case Central is also running HP Blade servers virtualized on VMware.

Staffing concerns

Migrating from Microsoft to the Oracle stack also required bringing on experienced staff, a task made somewhat easier by Case Central's location.

"We currently have some superstar DBAs who know Oracle, and we had to add from the Java, open source world as well," Sergott said. "But the really good engineers like to work on the best technology, and in the Bay Area you have an awesome talent pool."

As of this month, roughly 50% of Case Central's customers have migrated over to the new system.

"The base challenge is making the decision to do the re-architecture and rebuild the platform from scratch," Sergott said. "Once that's done, it's all about execution."

The new system has also proven to be a selling point for Case Central, which, as an SaaS company handling legally sensitive corporate data, must convince potential customers of its reliability.

"Our primary customers are enterprises and are familiar with enterprise-class software," D'Alencon said. "When we tell them we're running on Oracle database, Oracle RAC, it's very clear to them that we have a top-tier enterprise software system on which they're trusting their data."

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