Canadian organization's SAN handles an ocean of data

Researchers, rescue workers and enforcement officers for Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) have to brave the elements to keep the eastern coast of the country safe for mariners and wildlife, not to mention mapping the sea floor and controlling vessel traffic. There is one problem. Managing and monitoring all ocean-related activities generates a massive amount of data.

Researchers, rescue workers and enforcement officers for Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) have to brave the elements to keep the eastern coast of the country safe for mariners and wildlife, not to mention mapping the sea floor and controlling vessel traffic.

There is one problem. Managing and monitoring all ocean-related activities generates a massive amount of data.

As DFO's data collection tools became more sophisticated, its existing IT infrastructure was facing a data explosion. The organization needed a new way to organize and manage its storage. That's when a storage area network entered the equation.

"As the tools become more advanced for collecting data, the level of detail you collect also increases and essentially mushrooms," said Daniel Fitzgibbons, head of LAN services for DFO.

Among the DFO's pressure points was a steadily growing backup window. Backup operations were encroaching on regular business hours, sometimes even taking all night and into the next business day.

Typically backups would still be running at 8:00 o' clock in the morning when people would be coming into work, Fitzgibbons said.

"We wanted to look at a centralized point of managing all of the hardware and we wanted to build in a certain amount of redundancy," he added.

While performance was not a leading concern for DFO, the benefits of server consolidation on the SAN were immediately apparent.

"We weren't plagued with performance problems, but once we rationalized the SAN for other [purposes] we were amazed," said Fitzgibbons.

There was a noticeable performance boost once DFO moved from a primarily server-attached JBOD environment to a centralized storage pool. The side effect of the SAN was that it lifted a lot of the traffic off of the IP network and put it on the fabric.

Fitzgibbons said response time for common desktop applications was almost cut in half, depending on where the data was stored.

In deciding on a SAN solution, DFO evaluated proposals from Compaq Computer Corp., XIOtech Corp., and Open Storage Solutions, Inc. They chose Toronto-based OSS to provide the solution.

The OSS Infinity solution features a SAN based on Brocade Silkworm 2800 fabric switches, a Fibre Channel RAID system; a StorageTek L40 tape library; and Windows NT servers.

After implementing the SAN, DFO saw its backup times significantly reduced and were also able to run backup jobs during core business hours without impacting users.

DFO is looking toward putting in a second, smaller SAN for development purposes, as well as implementing virtualization technology.

"There are aspects of the technology we haven't taken advantage of yet like booting directly from the SAN. We currently do not leverage the full benefits of true virtualization that are possible." he said.

"The Infinity controllers that we use are excellent and utilizing some of the features available with Windows 2000 and Veritas Volume Manager enable us to create and allocate storage where we need, but there are still instances in that environment where reboots may be required and you have to go in and reconfigure RAID sets. Virtualizing the storage will reduce service interruptions," he said.




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