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WTC-commissioned architect picks NAS over SAN

Foster and Partners opt for a NetApp filer over EMC's NAS gateway and back-end SAN combo to keep things simple.

Architecture firm Foster and Partners, recently commissioned to help rebuild the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York, has also been doing some eye-catching design work on its storage environment.

Overloaded DAS running Windows was reaching end of life, and moving vast amounts of data between them to balance out capacity was way too time-consuming for the company's storage administrators.

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The London-based design firm narrowed its options to two vendors: EMC Corp. and Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp).

"The NetApp approach was easiest to manage, and once we figured out we could run Exchange on NAS we didn't need the complexity of a SAN," said Andy Hyatt, IT analyst at Foster and Partners.

EMC pitched its Celerra NAS gateway connected via Fibre Channel to Clariion storage loaded with EMC DiskXtender software to archive files to an EMC Centera content-addressed storage (CAS) box, according to Hyatt. This turned out to be a little bit too much EMC for the firm's requirements.

"Instead of all these separate controllers, NetApp gave us a way of keeping it all in one box, which offered us as much as we needed," Hyatt said.

Next, the company had to decide how to migrate 64 terabytes of data over to the new NetApp 3020 filers. It bought three filers in total, two that are clustered together at its primary site and a third that resides at its disaster recovery location.

Following advice from NetApp reseller Posetiv Ltd., Foster and Partners implemented a switch from Acopia Networks Inc. to perform this task. Acopia's Adaptive Resource Switch acts as an in-band NFS and CIFS proxy for client-server exchanges.

The firm was able to remove the function of archiving old data from its storage administrators as this is done by the switch, while maintaining file access to the users.

However, the Acopia switch was not without its challenges. It cannot transfer open files, according to Hyatt. "It'll leave the file in place until it's closed and keep trying until the lock is released." He said this doesn't pose much of a problem for his users as the company has a policy that employees shut down all files when they leave for the day. "Of course that doesn't always happen," he noted.

They also hit a few bumps migrating larger PowerPoint files. "We had to run an optimization tool to reduce the file size" in some cases, Hyatt said.

Foster and Partners expects to complete the migration in the next couple of months, working on a project-by-project basis.

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