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CIO interview: Data backups must run on time at DFW Airport

Dave Raffo

As vice president of IT/CIO of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, William Flowers is responsible for an IT operation that includes thousands of users, 23 departments and spans an area with a land mass larger than the borough of Manhattan. We recently spoke with Flowers about what it's like to run an IT operation of that size.

SearchStorage: What's unique about running IT for an airport?

Flowers: Our airport is 18,000 acres – you can fit Manhattan in our land mass. We're a city. We have our own post office; the only thing we don't have is a judge. We have facilities all over the place. We have three major computer rooms and we're building a data center as we speak. We have two generators on campus. The way I look at it, I'm on one campus but I have at least 20 buildings."

SearchStorage: What is your network storage infrastructure like?

Flowers: We have a Hitachi Data Systems Thunder and AMS systems for our storage area network (SAN), and NetApp V3020 for

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network-attached storage (NAS). We have about 34 TB and it's growing every day. We have Quantum for tape and disk backup, and we use CommVault Simpana backup software. We have virtual servers with VMware connected to the SAN.

SearchStorage: How long have you had the SAN?

Flowers: I started in 1995. The first thing we did with storage was consolidate our backups. We were using Veritas back then, but switched to CommVault. We went through a new holistic consolidation of all IT areas into one for Y2K. When we consolidated everything, we kicked off an evaluation that led us to CommVault.

The SAN came later. We were getting off a GE/Verizon backbone and implementing our own backbone with our own fiber. So we started looking at a SAN, then NAS. The SAN came first, then NAS.

SearchStorage: Are you using Simpana 8?

Flowers: We're getting ready to install it. We'll use it for backup and archiving. It will help us reduce data by deduplicating, and stop us from backing up unused data over and over again. Archiving will save us on the cost of tape and disk.

It doesn't help to try and push data through if you don't have the infrastructure to move it. We want to make sure our highway is built for growth.
William Flowers
CIODallas Fort Worth International Airport
SearchStorage: What do you do for disaster recovery (DR)?

Flowers: We back up to two sites for disaster recovery and business continuity. If I have a disaster on one site, I can always go to the other. We replicate between them. Each department does a risk assessment and business impact analysis. Each department determines what is the most crucial applications they need.

SearchStorage: Who is your Fibre Channel switch vendor?

Flowers: Brocade.

SearchStorage: Are you looking at Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) yet?

Flowers: Yes, FCoE, 8-gig Fibre Channel, 10-Gig Ethernet. We're building a new data center with all of that in mind. We keep pushing more and more through, data's cheap now but everybody wants a lot of it. It doesn't help to try and push data through if you don't have the infrastructure to move it. We want to make sure our highway is built for growth.

SearchStorage: When will the new data center open?

Flowers: September and October -- there are two different sites on campus. They'll total 10,000 square feet. We support every computerized application at the airport, everything from passenger processing to fire stations, all the basic business applications like Oracle, PeopleSoft, human resources. We have 23 departments, and about 2,000 users. We run Exchange servers, Linux servers, Unix servers, Windows. We have every application a city would run, every application an aviation center would run, and every application a business would run.


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