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Storage for Space Odyssey
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science started planning a major new project called Space Odyssey and knew that its current technology wouldn't be up to the task. "Our storage is almost all direct-attached and we're in transition," says Vince Wolfe, program technology manager. The museum is in the process of changing into a Microsoft shop from an old Novell environment.

Space Odyssey, though, needed a new kind of storage. The hands-on exhibit and all-digital planetarium required guaranteed uptime and scalability, in part to help deliver information-on-demand to human guides that are a critical part of the program.

The guides carry laptops to look up a range of information to help answer questions--everything from the history of space exploration to recent information gleaned from the Mars rover.

With this in mind, Wolfe says, it was clear they needed a SAN for shared storage, and the organization started looking at alternatives. "We did a pretty thorough evaluation and looked at Fibre Channel" and IP suppliers, Wolfe says. "We decided that an IP SAN was more flexible than Fibre." It was also much more affordable.

Ultimately, the museum went with LeftHand Networks as its IP SAN supplier, and now has 11 Network Storage Modules (NSMs). One reason was the architecture's "easy expandability," Wolfe says.

INTEC Engineering, a Houston-based company serving

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the oil and gas industry, had another equally clear-cut reason for looking into IP--its NAS was failing. "It was a cheap box, one of the first IDE-based ones that had come out," says Chris Warlick, IT director. "We were beating the heck out of it, using it beyond anything it was originally intended for." After it crashed several times, the company started looking around for something else. As Warlick recalls, "When your data is down, it's an easy sell."

They, too, looked at Fibre, but concluded they "wanted to save money and to be leading-edge, but not necessarily bleeding-edge." When its existing networking supplier, Cisco, started selling an IP switch, INTEC bought one.

At this point, the SAN functions as a file server, with the firm's SQL Server and Exchange application data housed in DAS. As Warlick explains, "If we get to the point where we feel it would benefit us to move the actual e-mail and database data, we'll do that."

Backup and disaster recovery
Clifford Chance, a New York-based law firm, wanted a better way to perform disaster recovery and backup "without interfering with our existing production systems," says Milton Morgan, senior IT manager. And its existing EMA 12000 SAN from Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) was too expensive to add capacity for this task, at least from a maintenance perspective. So, they're running FalconStor's IPStor software on an ATA-based StorageTek box connected to an IP network via Cisco 6509 switches. Under this scenario, the firm mirrors its DAS to the IPStor/StorageTek setup in New York, then replicates the mirror to the office in Washington, D.C. All of the firm's legal documents and home directories are handled this way, to the tune of about 4TB.

This approach saves money, but perhaps not for the most obvious reason. "There's not a huge difference in the price of the drives," Morgan says. There used to be, but HP and IBM Corp. have been "more willing to bring their storage prices down to ATA levels." The bigger problem is the cost of maintenance. The HP SAN--with a little more than 3TB of storage--costs $12,000/year for maintenance. And the StorageTek box--with more than 4TB of storage--costs approximately $6,000 in annually.

This was first published in April 2004

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