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SAN benefits no mirage for desert county

Yuma County, Arizona, a small, but growing desert community of about 167,000 people, recently stepped further into the electronic age with a new e-government initiative. But before the county could roll out a slew of e-government applications for its 30 agencies and 1,200 public employees, it needed to bolster its IT infrastructure.

The first and most comprehensive IT issue Yuma had to tackle was its storage architecture, which until a few years ago consisted of a series of 4-U servers. The servers were expensive and the architecture made upgrades difficult, says Matthew McClymonds, Yuma County's chief information officer.

After evaluating their options, Yuma decided to implement the Magnitude storage platform from XIOtech, a storage area network (SAN)-based solution that enables customers to boot multiple operating systems from the same storage pool. Since the installation, Yuma County's IT department has seen reduced downtime, decreased personnel hours and lowered costs of hardware upgrades, says McClymonds.

Yuma County now boots its 16 servers directly off its storage platform, which has reduced complexity, saving the county from hiring additional staff to manage its IT infrastructure. Yuma County has also improved its upgrade process -- they can migrate clustered services to a different server within that cluster, mirror the production virtual disk, down the server, break the mirror, reboot the server and upgrade the service pack.

"If the upgrade is unsuccessful,

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I just reassign the copied virtual disk back to the production environment," says McClymonds. "Either way, there's no impact on our users because we don't have to take the whole server down."

Yuma dealt with a server-centric environment, where upgrades meant users losing file services, e-mail services and everything that was on a certain server while the upgrade was going on. And if an upgrade didn't go well, users would be down that much longer.

Yuma County's new storage system also plays into the county's e-government initiative. "Since no one was sure at first which applications they wanted to implement, we chose to build our e-government infrastructure first," says McClymonds. "Now, everything we want to implement just slides into the system beautifully." Thus far, most of the e-government applications Yuma County is running are database-oriented, but there are also a few workflow applications.

Another benefit of the SAN is that it's given Yuma County the opportunity to create a centralized infrastructure management program, which saves them a lot of time and money. "Since the system is so user-friendly, I haven't had to hire one new staff member to manage our storage," says McClymonds. "My network admin can go in there and in 10 minutes create a virtual disk, throw a server on there and we're ready to go."

Being a government agency, Yuma County always wants "the best bang for their buck" when choosing a new software or hardware product, says McClymonds. He feels his organization has achieved this with the new systems.

For more information on Yuma County, take a look at its Web site.

Additional information on XIOTech can be located here.

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This was first published in March 2003

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