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Hard Rock picks Xiotech storage system

Dave Raffo
The IT director at the Hard Rock Park didn't want the experience of setting up his storage network to be as nerve-wracking as riding a roller coaster at his rock and roll theme park.

Director of IT Dave Montoya chose a Xiotech Corp. storage system over systems from larger vendors when he began building out his infrastructure a year ahead of the park's scheduled opening next spring. He said the storage environment at the park isn't much different than most other businesses, even if his campus is spread out over 140 acres and cost around $400 million to build. The attractions are supported on a separate network that he doesn't deal with. The Hard Rock's main data center runs Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server, file and print services, and financial applications.

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Montoya said he wanted a storage area network (SAN) that would be easy to set up and expand as his needs grow. He started with only 2 TB of storage, but knew he would eventually need a lot more. For instance, he expects a planned video surveillance system to add close to 20 TB of storage. He also expects the number of SAN users to at least double from a starting point of 100.

"Because this is a green field, I wanted to future proof as much as possible," he said. "I wanted something the park could run for as long a time as possible without having to refresh the technology."

Montoya said his IT budget was around $2 million, but he didn't want to let storage costs spiral. He chose a Xiotech Magnitude 3D 3000 after considering systems from EMC Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP).

"I looked at HP's MSA and EMC Clariion," Montoya said. "EMC would probably take me to the moon and Mars and back, but I don't have a budget for that. HP's nice, and it would function in our environment, but Xiotech gives us greater flexibility and is easier to manage. I can set up a LUN in three clicks. If somebody says, 'I need to add 20 gigs to the server,' I can do it in three clicks and go to lunch."

Montoya said Xiotech is also easier to scale. "I can hook another seven cabinets in a heartbeat without updating my infrastructure," he said.

That will come in handy as the park grows its infrastructure. The Hard Rock Park will add at least 100 security cameras by time the park opens and will store the images on the SAN. "I'm looking at 12 TB to 20 TB of data, easy," he said. "I know I can just plop in three more shelves of SATA drives and set it up tomorrow."

He is also considering adding SATA drives for backup of Exchange so he can restore it quicker than he can now from his HP tape library.

While Montoya was looking for something easy to use and not expensive, he eschewed iSCSI to go with Fibre Channel, even though the Magnitude supports both protocols. "It's a valid [iSCSI] technology," he said. "I'm just not too interested personally. I've dealt with Fibre Channel before. The learning curve isn't that bad."

He's also interested in VMware, running ESX Server to virtualize his HP ProLiant servers. "That's why I wanted something that I could dynamically upgrade without a lot of downtime or having to move applications that would take days or weeks," he said.

Montoya's SAN vendor Xiotech has been quiet over the last year or so while a bunch of other storage system vendors have made moves to go public. Isilon Systems Inc., Compellent Technologies and 3PARdata Inc. have completed initial public offerings (IPO) over the past year, and EqualLogic filed to go public before getting acquired by Dell Inc. for $1.4 billion.

But Xiotech bought the Advanced Storage Architecture (ASA) from its former parent company Seagate three weeks ago and Tuesday revealed it received $40 million in funding to develop and market the new disk technology. Seagate Technology chairman Steve Luczo led the funding round and joined Xiotech's board.

The funding will help support the 100-person engineer group that Xiotech picked up from Seagate. Still, Xiotech isn't saying much about the hard drive technology that it picked up. Xiotech vice president of product marketing Mike Hoch said it would add "new capabilities for performance, reliability and capacity," and promised more details early next year. Others with knowledge of the ASA technology describe it as a "self-healing" disk array.


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