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Rackspace buys into Gen5 (16-gig) Fibre Channel

Storage vendors are counting on cloud storage providers more and enterprises less for large implementations these days. Rackspace’s new SAN design is a prime example of that.

Rackspace upgraded to Brocade Gen5 (16 Gbps) Fibre Channel (FC) switching and EMC VMAX enterprise array  to achieve greater performance and density in its data centers around the world, according to Rackspace CTO Sean Wedige. Rackspace previously used Brocade’s 8 Gbps switches, but redesigned its SAN to take advantage of the extra bandwidth and density of the new gear.

“Storage is a big driver for us,” Wedige said. “Our customers’ storage is growing exponentially. It dwarfs what we saw just two years ago. We’re looking to increase our densities and speed.”

Rackspace’s new SAN set-up links Brocade 8510 Backbone director switches with Brocade’s UltraScale Inter-Chassis Links (ICLs), and its ports are connected to EMC VMAX enterprise storage arrays and Dell servers. Using four 16 Gbps FC cables gives Rackspace 64 Gbps of connectivity between directors. UltraScale ICLs can connect 10 Brocade DCX 8510 Backbones.

Rackspace also uses EMC VNX and Isilon storage.

Wedige said Rackspace runs FC SANs in seven of its eight data centers around the world, and will eventually add FC to its Sydney, Australia data center too. He said Rackspace has multiple petabytes of storage and thousands of ports, and Brocade’s Gen5 switching enables more ports per square foot in the data center.

“The bulk of our large customers are using a SAN,” he said. ““We use SANs for customers who are looking for dedicated infrastructure, high performance and fault tolerance.”

Wedige said the new design lets Rackspace connect servers to storage that is in different data centers, giving the hosting company more flexibility and better port utilization.

He said, like all of Rackspace’s storage infrastructure, the new SAN design withstood thorough testing before it was deployed.

“One of our biggest challenges is, because of our scale, we tend to break a lot of things,” he said. “Vendors appreciate that we put stuff to the test, but a lot of it may not be as suitable as we’d like for our environment.”

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