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Searching for seamless consolidation

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Many managers see another benefit to consolidating networked storage: improved data availability and disaster recovery. Three years ago, when First American Trust Federal Savings Bank, Santa Ana, CA, deployed 350GB of NetApp NAS storage to replace direct-attached disks storing the company's Word, Excel and other user files, CTO Henry Jenkins decided almost as an afterthought to use NetApp's snapshot technology to back up files on a regularly scheduled basis.

"We figured if somebody screwed up an Excel or Word file, we could go back to the last hourly snapshot and maybe retrieve it for them," says Jenkins.

As the bank expanded the use of the NAS --first replacing DAS on Linux servers, and eventually using NAS to store SQL Server database volumes generated by critical CRM applications--First American Trust began to rely on networked storage to guarantee data availability.

On its Linux servers, First American clustered the NAS storage to protect against storage-related failure. And the company supported the database applications with a hot-spare setup because SQL Server couldn't be supported with NetApp's clustering implementation. Jenkins says that's because SQL Server clustering at that time required a quorum drive.

First American recently updated its disaster-recovery plan, placing NetApp's clustering and SnapMirror technologies in a central role. The company built a back up data center in San Diego--connected to the Santa Ana data center via a T1 line--with

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fully mirrored NAS storage that's updated on a regular basis using SnapMirror. Altogether, Jenkins says, 85% of First American Trust's enterprise data--1.25TB in all--has been consolidated onto the clustered, mirrored NAS setup.

Now, says Jenkins, First American is planning to migrate remaining legacy systems not supported by NetApp--such as its AS/400-based trust accounting system--to a Windows environment in part so it can be incorporated into the disaster-recovery setup.

"At first, availability and disaster recovery weren't a big part of justifying the storage consolidation," says Jenkins. "Now they're a very important part of the equation."

An important and often overlooked first step, say storage managers and analysts, is to create consistent storage operational practices and processes and make sure they get adopted across the enterprise. At many companies, storage and network administrators at different sites often use different volume and file naming conventions. In addition, rules aren't consistent regarding which types of data are assigned to what class of storage, when additional storage capacity is provisioned and when or how data is archived.

Says Deloitte's Eriksen: "We need not just standard tools, but also processes so that it all looks and feels the same."

Managers at the $27-billion defense contractor Lockheed Martin, headquartered in Bethesda, MD, have come to the same conclusion. At Lockheed Martin, as part of a three-year effort to roll out a centrally managed SAN-based storage infrastructure, Stephen Hightower, director of infrastructure services, has overseen the development of new storage operating and storage delivery models.

This was first published in October 2003

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