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The science of SANs

(Editor's note: This is the second of three profiles of the SearchStorage Innovator Award winners, which were presented March 20 in Chicago. This week we take a look at the winner in the Asset Utilization category.)

When you're in a bookstore you often find an intriguing title you weren't even remotely looking for; and when you're searching high and low for your car keys you find other items you didn't even know you lost.

Specialty chemical maker Rohm and Haas Co. had this type of experience when it began building the storage underpinning for a new enterprise resource planning and human resource system. In planning for these new applications, Rohm and Haas looked at its tangled collection of storage servers and decided to gain better control of its storage technology and the costs associated with it.

"We began studying and drawing up lists of what we had, and it became clear that we had business unit stovepipes, redundant and overlapping applications, and servers," recalled Charles Wallace, manager of enterprise computing tech support at Rohm and Haas. Stovepipes and overlap are hardly surprising for a company with annual sales of $6 billion and more than 17,000 employees in 27 countries.

Rohm and Haas decided to find a way to consolidate and centralize the administration of its storage servers while at the same time making better use of the more than 200 NT servers it had at the time. To do so, Rohm and Haas brought in EMC Corp. CLARiiON

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and EMC Symmetrix networked information storage systems and software and built an EMC technology-based Storage Area Network (SAN).

When Rohm and Haas began studying its storage set-up in the spring and summer of 2000, they found they were only using about 30% of each of their server's capacities. At the same time, they were running out to buy 20-30 new servers each year to handle the company's data and storage growth, recalled Keith Sharrow, Rohm and Haas' project manager for the EMC CLARiiON SAN implementation. Sharrow's team understood that building a SAN would allow the company to use their server capacity more efficiently by pooling their storage resources from all servers and then dynamically allocating storage wherever it was needed.

Seven months after Rohm and Haas researched various SAN designs, they got to work building one. Eight months later the new SAN was fully operational. "Planning it all out was the most challenging aspect of the whole project," recalled Charles Wallace. The project required Wallace's team to shut down applications in order to migrate them from an NT environment to the new SAN. "Moving applications is tricky," Wallace said, "so we carefully looked at each piece and mapped out its connections and quirks before we attempted to move it. Because of this careful planning, nothing broke."

Wallace and Sharrow's teams built a multi-tiered storage infrastructure that included two EMC Storage Area Networks based on Symmetrix and CLARiiON FC4700 storage systems, EMC Connectrix Fibre Channel switches and EMC CLARiiON IP4700 network attached storage (NAS) systems for Windows NT server consolidation and file sharing.

Wallace said the CLARiiON SAN helped Rohm and Haas eliminate 75 servers, an almost 20% reduction of its overall IT environment, while boosting its storage utilization levels from 30% to nearly 100%. "This provided a flexible and scalable foundation for future growth and development," Wallace said, "which is precisely what we needed."

For more information about Rohm and Haas, visit its Web site.

For additional information about EMC, visit its Web site.

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This was first published in April 2002

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