Best Buy uses Brocade router to isolate SAN

Best Buy, an early adopter of Brocade's new multi-protocol router, is using the product to isolate an area of its SAN for development. Updated 4PM EST

Updated 4PM EST
Brocade's multi-protocol router, launched this month, has found its way into an interesting environment at Best Buy, the nation's largest consumer electronics retailer.

Located in Richfield, Minn., Best Buy Co. will use the router to section off an area of its production SAN for development and testing, according to Peter Rothers, enterprise storage group manager at Best Buy.

Like most retailers, Best Buy enters what's known in the industry as a "retail freeze" between October and December. During this time, the company is unable to make any changes to its IT environment, as these are peak selling months and disrupting the infrastructure is too risky. "Ten minutes of peak downtime is hundreds of millions of dollars at this company," Rothers said.

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He wanted to find a way to continue doing development instead of having the engineers "twiddling their thumbs" over this quiet period. Brocade Communications Systems Inc.'s router enables Best Buy to isolate a part of its SAN for testing without interrupting the production environment. "We can share the tape libraries and perform data refreshes, then roll the changes into production once the freeze lifts," Rothers said.

A Brocade spokesman added that the router is "ideally suited to link disparate Brocade SAN fabrics together without merging them to simplify management tasks and lower costs." He added that tape backup consolidation is a good example of how Brocade envisions the product being used.

The spokesman said that trying to merge fabrics together without such a product would cause address problems, naming issues and performance degradation -- and just wouldn't be worth the hassle.

Best Buy's Rothers agrees. He runs three SANs using 14 Brocade SilkWorm 12000 Directors and about 20 plus smaller Brocade Fibre Channel switches. These are attached to 2,000 Intel servers and about 500 Unix servers supporting about half a petabyte of storage on Hewlett Packard Co.'s version of the Hitachi Data Systems Lightening storage array. "It's a fairly complex setup and would be tough to engineer as a shared environment without the router," Rothers said.

His one complaint about the router is that he'd rather have it in a blade format. "When I do a firmware upgrade, I can't take down my customers; with a blade, I can just swap it out without having to disrupt the whole switch." Brocade isn't slated to ship its multi-protocol router on a blade until the first half of 2005.

As a side note, Best Buy reported booming sales Thursday for its fiscal quarter ended May 29. Revenue rose 17% to $5.48 billion from $4.67 billion in the year-earlier period. The company's profit for the quarter was $114 million, compared to a loss of $25 million a year earlier.

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