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Cisco deploys Apple SAN for litigation archive

Cisco has anointed storage newbie Apple by deploying the new Xsan file system and Xserve RAID array.

Like two new kids on the playground looking to make friends, Cisco and Apple have reached out to one another.

The two powerhouse companies, both relatively new to storage, have announced that Cisco has deployed Apple's new Xsan file system and Xserve RAID storage subsystem to provide online archiving of Cisco's litigation- and compliance-related data.

IT integrator, Digital Strata, which manages Cisco's litigation lab and its electronic discovery product development group, will manage the deployment of the Apple products at Cisco.

The integration is bigger news for Apple, which is quickly gaining steam in the storage space. Last month, Oracle Corp. became an Apple storage user. The database giant deployed Apple's Xserve RAID system to store e-mail, voicemail and calendar information.

Another early Xsan user is the University of Pittsburgh, which is using the Xsan file systems and the Xserve array to store genomic databases at the university's human genetics department.

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The Xsan software is brand-spanking new, having only started shipping on January 4. Apple provided Cisco with an early release of Xsan and the Xserve RAID system. Cisco plugged the Xserve array into its own MDS 9000 switch and uses Xsan to format the data on the array. Cisco replaced other arrays and JBODs used to archive litigation data with the Xserve array. The company declined to name names of its previous suppliers.

Jeff Ghielmetti, manager of IT in the computer forensics and computer discovery group at Cisco, said the company has already migrated 27 TB of litigation documents to the Xserve array including e-mails, contracts and any other documents Cisco would need if the lawyers came calling.

"We're using the Apple products to create a specialized SAN, so we can collect, process and present information to the courts or compliance regulators," said Ghielmetti.

The Xsan price is $999 per client and per server. It's also worth noting that Apple doesn't charge more when you add extra storage to the SAN.

"We're moving data into the Xserve at about a terabyte a day," said Ghielmetti. "Apple's price, functionality and flexibility were all a good fit for our needs."

Cisco uses a modular blade inserted into its MDS 9000 switch, which utilizes Veritas' volume management software called Veritas Storage Foundation for Networks. The software virtualizes the storage in the Xserve array, so rather than appearing as, say, ten disk drives, the data is seen by the user as one large volume of disk, said Cisco's Ghielmetti. "This creates operational efficiency for the administrator," he added.

The Cisco purchase is expected to be one of the first large-scale enterprise deployments of Apple's new Xsan software. Apple began shipping the Xsan beta release in late 2004 to registered Apple developers and integrators.

Other companies that provide disk-based compliance products include EMC Corp. (Centera); Network Appliance Inc. (NearStore) and Permabit Inc. (Permeon).

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