Q

Helpful hints when expanding or moving your data

If a company is expanding and is in the process of moving, what would be the best storage system for their needs? Do you think a server will be better or just a SAN?
You and your company sound like you are going through some changes. I think there are two separate events occurring that may be tightly coupled together:

1. The company is growing beyond their current storage resources, and
2. There is a move in the future of the company

These two events taken alone can be challenging but when taken together, they can cause confusion and a bit of anxiety. There are a few things to consider in taking on the challenges at hand.

First, understanding the rate of storage growth of the current environment is paramount. The question that you are trying to answer is "will the current infrastructure take me through the move"? If so, then I would suggest holding still on purchasing a new system and migrating the data. If not, then you should start to look at options for purchasing a new storage system and taking a scheduled maintenance period to migrate the data to the new environment. Don't underestimate the time required to make the change to a new storage subsystem. Plan out each step in a documented project plan and review the plan on a daily basis either with a coworker or on your own. Try to gain input from the owners of the data on the storage system at each step of the process since ultimately your success will be based on the success of your customers.

Also, I would limit the scope of the search for a new storage subsystem to what is absolutely necessary. Don't let scope creep grab you as you are looking for new storage solutions. Try to scope out, in a Request for Information, exactly what you require today and what you will require in the future. You may want to do a two or three step upgrade process in which phases occur that get you and your company to your ultimate goal. Prioritize at each step so you can understand what you are willing to give up if you have to in the decision making process.

You ask a question of purchasing a server for storage or going with a SAN. The decision to select one technology over the other is usually based on the company's current storage topology, budget, technological awareness, and capabilities in FC vs. IP technologies, network experts in the company or FC experts, performance requirements for the environment, and finally scalability requirements.

SAN array architectures offer a variety of advantages over a server-based storage systems, including performance, availability, manageability, scalability, and maturity. If you have a specific requirement for a storage solution that isn't being served by your current environment, add it to the RFI that I mentioned above, but remember to prioritize.

For the move, make a specific checklist and review both the current site move capabilities and the new site. Some frequent things that are missed are the ability to move racks into elevators. Count the wheels of the rack in sizing the move, these are often overlooked. Make sure the floors will support any equipment weight that you will be putting on them.

Also, make sure that you take a full backup of the current environment prior to the move if you aren't going to do any replication or mirroring from site to site.

After you complete the move, review what went well and what didn't and grade yoursel
This was first published in May 2004

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