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Preparing for an SSP evaluation

A case study of one company, Enmed, evaluating SSPs.

Preparing for an SSP evaluation

By Linda Gail Christie

This week we look at how one company, Enmed, approached the process of evaluating and choosing an SSP to meet its needs. Enmed's suite of Internet-based tools assist pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device development organizations in their efforts to supervise and execute clinical programs. The company's tools provide a variety of trial, data, document, and image management capabilities.

As a part of their service, Enmed wanted to provide high quality, scalable storage and backup operations that would work seamlessly with their applications.

"We wanted a top-of-the-line storage infrastructure for our customers, instead of purchasing a cheaper solution that might not work so well," said Enmed chief architect, Shekar Reddy. "However, we soon found that not all SSP solutions are equal. We had to find one that could work with our network infrastructure, as well as serve our customers around the world."

"Everyone's vision is that plugging into an SSP is as simple as hooking up cable TV," said Bill Brodnitzki, director of services marketing for StorageNetworks, a leading SSP. "However, there are operating system, application, server, network, and storage interoperability issues that will need to be addressed."

Brodnitzki says it pays to do some preparation before contacting an SSP, "Any reputable SSP will ask rigorous questions about your network environment before they promise how their solutions will work for you."

Before the evaluation, make a list of all the equipment, operating systems, and software used on your network including the manufacturer and version. "If the SSP does not support a broad base of vendors that includes yours, they may not be able to guarantee the service levels you require," Brodnitzki said. "In addition, they will need to know if your servers have a slot available for the host bus adapter used to connect to the SSP's Fibre Channel port."

Another consideration will be the type of storage your application needs. Network-attached storage (NAS), for example, will allow multiple servers to share the same data source. NAS is well-suited for supporting e-mail, Web sites, and shared databases; however, it will have split-second latency. A storage area network (SAN) supports the high throughput required by transaction processing and data warehousing. However, it can't share a volume (portion of the disk) with multiple servers. The rate of data change needed to support your application also determines the data connectivity cards and data switches recommended.

"Be prepared to discuss your data protection needs such as how often you need to perform backups or if you need high-availability, offsite mirroring capabilities," Brodnitzki said. "In addition, let the SSP know how fast you anticipate growing. If you know you will be adding servers in the near future, you can save some money by purchasing fibre channel switches with extra ports."

A little upfront preparation can go a long way toward easing your search for an SSP.

Additional resources:

About the author: Storage management tips are written by Linda Gail Christie, a contributing editor based in Tulsa, Okla.

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