SAN solves city's additional storage needs

Installing an open system SAN helped the City of Fresno increase its storage capacity easily and inexpensively.

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When you find yourself shuffling enterprise data among 150G bytes of storage and you and other staffers are frantically deleting extra files off of servers in an attempt to squeeze out a few more bits of storage space, while supporting 3,500 employees and 500,000 constituents, you'll realize you're in the same pickle the City of Fresno (Calif.) found itself in two years ago.

Fresno's experience isn't unique. Municipalities across the nation are being asked to transfer old paper and microfiche files to electronic records and electronically archive town plans and drawings. Additionally, in efforts to reach out to the general public, many municipalities have brought bundles of government services online and found themselves overwhelmed with a crushing flood of new system users. Don Robbins, a senior network specialist with the City of Fresno, says it was clear the city's old set-up needed some new additions. "We wanted to grow the system and do failover and clustering, but our SCSI connectivity configuration didn't allow for that," Robbins recalls. So a search began for a new storage scheme.

An initial survey of big-name storage equipment vendors showed Robbins that his budget requirements would require some creative thinking. It also took a trade show demo to open his eyes to the possibilities of a fibre channel-based storage area network (SAN). JMR Electronics Inc., a designer and manufacturer for the FORTRA family of disk array products, had the capabilities including redundancy and scalability that Fresno was looking for.

The Fresno Information Services Department (ISD) decided to install an open system SAN using a FORTRA 10-bay rackmount enclosure with fibre channel connectivity (from JMR), Mylex (IBM) FFx RAID controllers and a Gadzooks fibre hub.

"They needed a scheme that they could efficiently manage and that would still give them the ability to increase storage capacity easily and inexpensively," recalls Tom Fabrizio, a vice president of sales at Chatsworth, Calif.-based JMR. Fabrizio also consulted with Robbins and Fresno on the SAN installation. "A SAN isn't a good idea for either small companies with very few servers or huge ones with lots of servers spread out all over the place -- consolidation is a nightmare in that instance ? but for Fresno it was a good fit."

Fabrizio recalls that Fresno, like many new SAN users, went through about two months of tweaking and testing before all the kinks were ironed out in their new system. "Putting a SAN into an existing infrastructure isn't an exact science because the collection of products is rarely fully-tested together," Fabrizio says. "It often takes 90 days or so to tinker with drivers, figure out which vendors are responsible for supporting which pieces and get network compatibility all worked out."

Fresno didn't look back after it completed the tweaking and tinkering of the $60,000 system that increased its storage capacity from 150G bytes to 1.4T bytes. The new system also makes it easy for Fresno to manage growth and add storage, as it needs to. "Bottlenecks disappeared so file access became much quicker," Robbins recalls. With the change to a SAN, Robbins adds that employees are happier and more able to perform their jobs. In addition, the "IT staff no longer wastes time deleting files to increase storage capacity."

For additional information about JMR Equipment, visit its Web site.

For more information about The City of Fresno, visit its Web site.

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This was first published in January 2002

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