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SAN supports fast-growth

LiveOffice finds a highly available, scalable, low-maintenance storage architecture supporting 200% annual growth.

SAN supports fast-growth
LiveOffice finds right SAN fit

To support 200 percent annual growth, financial services application service provider LiveOffice needed a highly available and scalable storage architecture that was economically priced and easy to maintain.

By Linda Christie

After working with a storage area network (SAN) solution for several months, LiveOffice Corp., a provider of Internet-based productivity tools for the financial services industry, ran into difficulty scaling their storage to accommodate rapid growth. "The unit we installed could handle a maximum of six trays with 10 drives each," says Alexander Rusich, LiveOffice founder and president. "Once it filled to capacity, we had to install and manage another new control unit. So, soon, the headaches of adding and managing more storage had become a nightmare."

Torrance, Calif.-based LiveOffice discovered rather quickly, that the cost of the hardware did not truly reflect their total cost of ownership. "Servicing the unit also was expensive," Rusich says. LiveOffice had to rely on pricey consultants. "We had to maintain a group of people who, if necessary, could service the unit in the middle of the night to keep our services online. If our people couldn't fix the problem, we had to contact a service consultant -- potentially incurring expensive downtime and loss of service to our customers: a risk we were unwilling to take."

To find an economical and scalable storage alternative, LiveOffice evaluated EMC Corp., Hitachi and IBM Corp. SAN architectures. IBM approached LiveOffice with a comprehensive package including installation, training and an ongoing 24x7x365 service contract. "IBM offered a very attractive entry level package and a service contract that clinched the deal," Rusich says. "Initially we installed the IBM Shark storage server with 1.5 terabytes, which can easily scale to 22 terabytes by adding more hard drives. Our benchmarks show that it's at least four times faster than our old solution and almost as fast as EMC's. In addition, Shark is firmware upgradeable. So, we won't have to migrate to a new box as technology improves from the 36GB/10,000 rpm hardware we're running now."

Installation was easy. "IBM did the installation for us. It took about two weeks, primarily because of scheduling problems with the collocation facility. It's a big box. When they connected fiber channel to the box, the server saw our data immediately, and they simply copied it over. It's also compatible with Microsoft NT and with our existing backup software."

IBM trained LiveOffice personnel to manage their own storage. "Because we know how to manage it, we don't have to contract with expensive consultants to do it for us," Rusich says. "This, combined with IBM's service contract, has saved us a lot of labor. With our old SAN, we had to have a dedicated person to monitor it at all times. But Shark automatically sends a message to IBM's service department if it detects a problem: like when a recent power surge set off a warning light and they came out in the middle of the night to check the unit. We don't have to worry about lost data or service interruptions."

Shark provides an added level of security, too. "In addition to the security provided by our databases, the management software partitions the box to protect privacy," he says. "We also run a mirror site at our office to further protect our customer's data."

"Bottom line, don't just look at the cost of the hardware," Rusich says. "Pay attention to the cost of growth and maintaining service levels -- to your total cost of ownership. It's expensive making forklift upgrades, maintaining a team of people or hiring pricey consultants to ensure 100 percent uptime. With IBM Shark we have the scalability we need as well as a 24x7x365 service contract -- all in one package."

For more information on LiveOffice, visit their Web site.

For additional information on IBM storage, visit their Web site.


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This was last published in June 2001

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