Storage grid pushes the envelope


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When a prominent storage vendor built a 1,000 node storage test grid, it learned plenty of lessons, and a lot of what it learned can be applied to architecting enterprise storage systems.

IT projects can be divided into two camps: out-of-the-box implementations that require very little customization and risk; and highly customized jobs in which unique business requirements force a nonstandard approach or the technology (or how it's applied) is so novel that there's limited precedence and experience.

Most storage projects fall into the former category. A prime example of the latter is the Network Appliance (NetApp) Inc. Kilo-Client project, where the objectives and requirements coerced the project team to build a unique solution. The project uses NetApp storage components, but the storage test grid could easily be replicated using other storage vendors' gear. And the technologies applied, such as SAN booting of servers for simplified management and rapid recovery, could benefit any storage network.

The task
David Brown, engineering support manager at NetApp's office in Research Triangle Park, NC, and Gregg Ferguson, Kilo-Client manager, NetApp engineering support, were asked to build a large QA testing grid. The grid had to be constructed for easy, rapid provisioning of a large number of clients with various configurations to a variable number of NetApp FAS storage controllers for rigorous load and stress testing.


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clients also had to connect via Fibre Channel (FC), iSCSI or file-system protocols to the storage controllers, and the solution would have to group multiple clients into a single test bed. The number and size of these test beds could vary, ranging from one single test bed consisting of all clients, to tens of independent test beds running in parallel. To add to the challenge, the solution needed to be rapidly changed and restored to any of the available or new test-bed configurations.

This was first published in October 2007

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