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Hosts run the Sun SAM-QFS clustered file system, which lets multiple hosts access the same volume, reading and writing simultaneously. SAM-QFS also sends the data to tapes automatically. Although Clemson's legacy Legato backup system is no longer needed to write server data to tape, it's being used to move data to SAM-QFS.

LCAs and some pieces of the new infrastructure have already been installed and are in production. Other pieces, such as the tape library, have been ordered but haven't arrived. The SAM-QFS component is not yet working "but Jim Pepin has already done it at USC, so we're confident it will work," says Cannon.

The LCAs in the completely redundant FC fabric are attached to the QLogic switches. With two separate dual-FC fabrics, "there is no single point of failure. We have redundancy for everything," says Cannon.

But there are limits to everything and Clemson didn't use redundant switches within each fabric. "We are not building redundant redundancy," says Cannon. "The cost of the dual switch licensing is expensive." Dual switch licenses would cost Clemson $50,000 for each license, and $200,000 for the dual pairs. Instead, the operations team will rely on an alternate path in case of a failure and initiate a manual failover process in the event of a problem. They're betting that the likelihood of such a failure at an inopportune moment would be so rare that they could

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safely avoid the added expense.

Open systems and mainframe
The LCAs currently work with Clemson's open-systems hosts. The school's numerous hosts run a variety of OSes, including Solaris, SUSE Linux, Red Hat Linux, NetWare and Windows. The systems support student, administrative and faculty applications. Microsoft Exchange is a big application. Individual user storage quotas are being increased from 50MB to 2GB.

In addition, the storage condo will connect to the back end of a separate high-performance computing cluster that currently provides 11 TFLOPs and expects to reach 30 TFLOPS soon. Bottum plans to push that up to 100 TFLOPS or more. "The plan is to use commodity-based storage and networking to support all of this," says Cannon. Clemson is wooing new faculty with the promise of 140TB of high-performance disk immediately at 10GigE interconnect speeds.

The school has an old EMC Corp. storage system that is at end-of-life and won't be continued. Also going away are the storage silos that characterized Clemson's IT environment in the past. A single open-systems storage team under Cannon is now pulling in all the various silos. "It's exciting. It's more stressed, but more fun," he says, speaking for the team.

This was first published in January 2008

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