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Sane strategies for SAN growth

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Credit Valley Hospital runs out of room
Sometimes, despite the best original plans, shops just run out of room. That's what happened at the Credit Valley Hospital, a facility in Mississauga, Ontario that sees more than 20,000 patients each year.

Credit Valley bought its initial storage area network (SAN) in the summer of 2002, expanded it for the first time with a few more switches in February 2003 and expanded a second time in May 2003 with more disk.

"We bought what we needed

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at the time, but we just needed more than we thought," says Leigh Popov, manager of technical services and telecommunications at the hospital. The first expansion was to double the number of ports, from 32 to 64 on its Brocade SilkWorm 3900 switches. The second growth spurt grew disk space from 7.7TB to around 10TB.

"We found that we used up the disk pretty fast just by transferring radiology to the SAN," Popov says.

At the same time the hospital is building its core SAN, it has also been constructing a 500-slot tape library--an IBM 3584 LTO system--as its nearline backup facility. The hospital is using LTO to replace its aging optical jukeboxes and StorageTek DLT devices.

Next up for the SAN is adding all of the hospital's 65 servers to the server-less backup environment; about 12 are hooked in right now and the rest are being backed up to the DLT and jukeboxes across the LAN. Server-less backup, done via Legato NetWorker, allows for the servers that manage large amounts of data to back themselves up across the SAN "with no impact on the LAN," Popov explains. Each server creates its own schedule, runs its own backup, then puts the backups onto tape and places the index of those backups to the main index on the main backup server.

Also, cardiology is starting to come online, which will add quite a lot of storage to the managed pool: A typical echocardiogram can require up to 1GB.

All told, Popov says, "I'm looking forward maybe three years. It's difficult to go any farther out than that, and I kind of laugh when I hear vendors say they're going to sell me something that will last for 10 years. "

When the hospital bought the SAN originally, he says, "We slated it for a life span of maybe four to five years, and we made sure that it was modular enough to switch things around for that time frame." Disk can grow to around 50TB, from its current 10TB, and if the hospital needs more switches to accommodate its growth, it can just add one or more to the fabric.

--By Johanna Ambrosio

This was first published in November 2003

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