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Sane strategies for SAN growth

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Guardian Life swaps the new for the old
The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, based in New York, NY, took a middle ground between storage- and network-centric storage area network (SAN) expansion. Although the firm evaluated both the fabric and storage decisions separately, it decided to go with the fabric and switches suggested by EMC Corp.

The firm just bought new DMX 2000 arrays, as well as a 192-port McData fabric, for its Bethlehem, PA-based data center, says Bob Mathers,

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second vice president of IT operations at Guardian Life. When the fabric is fully populated in this go-round, it will probably be at around 120-port utilization.

At the same time, Guardian is implementing a backup SAN--exactly matching the setup in Bethlehem--for a new backup data center in Pittsfield, MA. The primary center will replicate data asynchronously to the backup center every couple of hours; about 60% of the primary production environment will be backed up to the second data center, which becomes primary if the first fails.

The new gear is replacing some Brocade switches, as well as older EMC storage boxes and some IBM Shark devices. "I was open to continuing to have a multivendor environment," Mathers said. "But as we went through the process, we felt that EMC was the vendor of choice. They were more proactive and more responsive through the RFP process--and I've told IBM that."

A big part of the reason behind the expansion--besides just running out of space on the older SAN gear--was the idea of computing-on-demand. "We want to go with this in every area we can," Mathers explains. "We want extra capacity, but we don't want to pay for it until we need it." In this case, they will be using around 70TB right off the bat, but will have around 90TB worth of capacity for when they need it later.

On the fabric side, both EMC and the other major vendor in the running--IBM--had recommended the use of McData Corp. "If we had wanted Brocade, they would have been fine with that," Mathers says. "But we felt that McData was the better product. McData directors have been around a while, where Brocade directors were new to the market," he explains.

With EMC, Mathers says, "We have a very strong storage partner who's in line with our capacity-on-demand model."

--By Johanna Ambrosio

This was first published in November 2003

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