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School upgrades with iSCSI SAN

The Spokane, Wash., school system has implemented an IP SAN, connecting existing arrays with an iSCSI switch from Sanrad, easing administration and costs.

The Spokane, Wash., school system decided to go for iSCSI to expand its storage on the cheap and found that using an external iSCSI switch from Sanrad Inc. was even cheaper than implementing an IP SAN-in-a-can.

"We're trying to use taxpayers' money as efficiently as possible," said lead network administrator Kevin Mount. "We looked at IP SAN products like EqualLogic [Inc.], but they were just too much for what we needed." He declined to provide details on his budget or how much he ended up spending.

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The Sanrad V-3000 switch is used by the school to network 24 terabytes (TB) of SATA arrays from Gateway Inc., which had previously been directly attached to the system's servers. "We had already bought the arrays just six months earlier," Mount said. "We didn't want them to just sit there."

He admitted his approach was somewhat unorthodox: "We liked the flexibility of some of the [Storage Technology Corp.] and [Network Appliance Inc.] products we looked at, but they were so much more expensive -- we were willing to give up a little bit of the flexibility to go cheaper."

Beyond the cost savings, Mount said he preferred keeping data migration, virtualization and data management capabilities outside the array using the iSCSI switch.

"We can attach the disks to any server, and keep the management of data separate from the array hardware," he said. "We like just being able to tack on more Gateway disk if we want to expand and not having to worry about provisioning within the array."

The school has been running a 6 TB Xiotech Corp. Fibre Channel (FC) SAN for critical data, such as payroll and student records since 2001, Mount said. The newly networked Gateway arrays are being used for special project data from students and teachers connected to the V-switch, and in turn to the school system's Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) network.

Sanrad launches bigger switch

Sanrad is expected to announce Monday the V-Switch 3800, which will boost capacity to up to 8,000 TB and support FC storage with eight auto-sensing FC ports, and iSCSI via three GigE iSCSI ports.

The V-Switch 3800 is aimed at a higher-end enterprise market than previous releases, with support for 2-, 3- and 4-way local synchronous data mirroring to individual storage systems. The redundant mirroring can be combined with V-Switch clusters for further failover protection.

"The intent in making an iSCSI switch for the data center is to migrate applications off the Fibre Channel SAN, saving that for mission critical apps," said Zophar Sante, vice president of marketing at Sanrad. "You can invest more in Fibre Channel or off-load apps that are only using a 10th the speed of Fibre Channel."

The V-Switch supports operating systems, storage systems and protocols, including Windows, Linux, SUSE, Solaris, AIX, HP-UX and Netware deployed on any iSCSI LAN, MAN or WAN.

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