Feature

SAN anxieties allayed

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When IBM discontinued support for direct-attached Serial Storage Architecture (SSA) disks in its Unix RS/6000 (pSeries) servers a few years ago, directory database services provider LSSi Corp., Edison, NJ, was forced to take the plunge into storage area network (SAN) storage.

That was much to the dismay of Mike McLendon, LSSi's director of technology. "I was really dreading introducing a new technology," McLendon recalls.

A year ago, McLendon still had his doubts about the SAN, which comprised 30TB across several IBM FAStT900s. "The jury is still out as the systems are new, but we'll know more by the end of 2004 if the SAN is a win, draw or loss," he wrote at that time. By the end of 2004, however, McLendon was feeling more upbeat about the company's decision to go down the SAN path.

Here are a few things McLendon specifically likes about the SAN:

  • The incremental cost of adding additional storage is less expensive with the SAN than it was in a direct-attached environment.
  • Adding additional storage capacity is much easier. "We don't have to stop any processes or servers--you just pop in another shelf. That's been a real benefit," he says.
  • Administration is simpler. "Allocating storage is done from a central console, and we have a lot less system administration time," he adds.

As far as backup is concerned, LSSi uses its own internally developed

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software, which hasn't been affected by the SAN one way or the other. "If we had been using a commercial application, the SAN probably would have helped," says McLendon.

Fibre Channel required "a moderate learning curve," he says, but "once it was accomplished, I haven't heard any more complaints of pain or suffering" from system administrators.

In the end, putting in a SAN helped more than it hurt. "It wasn't so bad," McLendon says. Sometimes, in IT, that's as much as you can hope for.

This was first published in February 2005

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