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Publisher opens new storage chapter

Zoom Media, a fast-growing publisher, learned quickly that it needed a storage system that could scale with the business.

According to Carlos Alfaro, chief technology officer for Zoom Media Group Inc., the two things any young magazine publishing company can count on are deadlines and the fact that its data storage needs will grow rapidly.

Zoom Media publishes three monthly magazines aimed at Portuguese and Spanish readers in Latin America and Miami, where the company is based. In the year since it was launched, the three magazines have generated about 200G bytes of data, mainly in the form of graphics files. "We were in business for only a few months and our storage needs were already growing at 10 gigs a month," Alfaro says. "I knew quickly that things were going to get out of hand."

Alfaro's short-term solution was to add drives as they were needed to each of the five servers the company has on its Windows 2000 network. But when some of the servers reached their maximum storage capacity, Alfaro knew the time had come to consolidate storage.

"One option, of course, was to buy another server and put larger drives on it," Alfaro says. "But if we did, we would be buying servers every time we needed more storage, and that wasn't worth it." After briefly considering network-attached storage (NAS), Zoom Media opted for a storage area network (SAN). NAS would have been less expensive, Alfaro says, but Zoom decided to go with a SAN because the software would allow them to assign storage to each server and configure RAID levels, cache modes and other parameters to meet its server and application requirements.

The company was committed to purchasing EMC Corp.'s Clariion-based SAN but that was before "the guys from Dot Hill came calling," Alfaro says. "What they presented to us was a similar option to the Clariion but at one-fourth the cost. There was no comparison."

Three months ago, Zoom Media installed Dot Hill's SANnet 7100, a Fibre Channel RAID storage system. The publisher stores an SQL database and all of the files for its past and current magazine issues on the SAN. The storage system also supports the company's e-mail system.

Previously, the art department stored the files for completed issues on CD-ROMs to conserve space on the servers. When the art department wanted to reuse graphics files from past issues, which happened frequently, the designers had to do a time-consuming search through several CDs. "On this new system they don't have to do that," Alfaro says. "The information is right there all of the time. Now they can focus on deadlines and not spend time hunting for CD-ROMs."

The redundancy built into the SAN also allows Alfaro to sleep better, he says. He means that literally. "When we are on deadline for closing an issue, our employees sometimes work in the office until four or five o'clock in the morning," he explains. "We can't afford to have the system go down at that hour. I now have peace of mind, knowing that our SANnet system is reliable."

The SAN has been running for about three months and so far, there hasn't been a single hiccup. The only quibble, Alfaro says, is he must launch and keep open Dot Hill's SANscape admin tools like any application rather that running them like a service.

Dot Hill offers an optional piece of SANnet monitoring and notification software called SANnet Alert that runs in the background, says Omar Barraza, director of product management at Dot Hill. That feature will be included at no charge in the next upgrade of SANscape, which the company expects to release in November, he adds.

To learn more about Dot Hill Systems Corp., visit its Web site.

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