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Localization services firm goes thick to thin with FalconStor

Lionbridge Technologies upgrades to FalconStor's latest version of Network Storage Server (NSS) to take advantage of thin provisioning and plans to use NSS to cluster Hyper-V across sites.

Localization services firm Lionbridge Technologies Inc. first turned to FalconStor Software Inc.'s IPStor as a way to add inexpensive storage to its SAN. Now the company finds that its thin provisioning and Microsoft Corp. Hyper-V support are key pieces to managing its data spread across the globe.

Waltham, Mass.-based Lionbridge has 4,600 employees across 25 countries. Its SAN consists of approximately 100 TB on a mix of Hitachi Data Systems AMS1000 and Sun Microsystems Inc. StorageTek 6140 Fibre Channel (FC) systems. In addition, it runs FalconStor's IPStor Network Storage Server (NSS) software on Dell Inc. PowerEdge servers to serve up iSCSI storage.

FalconStor provides "a cheap way to have a whole lot of SAN storage we couldn't afford with Fibre Channel, and all the extra software licensing," says Frank Smith, senior systems engineer at Lionbridge. "And it gives us flexibility because we don't have to be tied to one particular vendor. We don't have the biggest IT budget in the world, but we can go to our vendors, put them head to head in a pricing competition, and buy the best block-level storage we can afford without software attached because we're using NSS for things like remote mirroring and disaster recovery. "

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Thick to thin provisioning

Lionbridge began using IPStor in 2004, and upgraded to IPStor 6.0 from Version 5.1 last month mainly for the thin provisioning and ability to bond Ethernet ports for increased throughput to iSCSI targets. Smith expects thin provisioning can give him back approximately 30% of used storage capacity by converting previously provisioned "fat" or "thick" volumes to thin volumes.

"Thin provisioning will give us the ability to dynamically resize LUNs, but the more important piece is space reclamation," he says. "It will take a pre-created LUN from a previous IPStor version and create the same site replica of that data, basically a local site mirror. You have the option to create it as thin, and during mirroring it will reclaim any of that white space. When people ask for storage on servers, they never know how much they want up front, so they go big. Its human nature for people to want more than they need, and this will save us a lot of money."

Smith says he tested thin provisioning before upgrading his production SAN and found it easy to use. "You create a SAN resource inside the IPStor NSS," he says. "You start the virtual device wizard, and the first tab asks if you want to thin provision this device. If you do, it asks you what size you want to start it at and what capacity you want it to be. There's also an option to set how aggressively it reclaims space."

Getting hyper with Hyper-V

Lionbridge also found FalconStor's early support of Microsoft's Hyper-V helpful, according to Smith. Partly because Microsoft is one of Lionbridge's biggest customers, Lionbridge was an early adopter of Hyper-V and has approximately 300 host servers in production. "All of our Hyper-V hosts use storage served up by FalconStor," says Smith. "Our three-node Hyper-V clusters can contain up to 75 virtual machines, and we're looking at 75 to 80 LUNs presented to FalconStor per Hyper-V cluster."

The next step will be to geocluster Hyper-V hosts across sites. "We brought FalconStor out to Redmond[, Wash.,] to do some testing around Hyper-V and stretch clustering," says Smith. "We like what we see. Later this year we're looking to start geoclustering."

Smith says the biggest item on his IPStor wish list is better I/O multipathing between NSS servers and FC storage. "There is path redundancy, but we would like to see some round-robin type of load balancing across those redundant paths," he says.

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