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New Jersey nets storage boost with move to SAN

IT manager Bruce Rosser knew that juggling the management of the state of New Jersey's widely-dispersed server farms, all served by direct-attached storage, was a lose-lose proposition. Even a master juggler couldn't keep them all up at the same time.

As shared infrastructure manager for the state's Office of Information Technology (OIT), Rosser administers IT systems for dozens of state agencies and departments. Rosser's department supports a slew of information applications for the state, including tourist information, licenses, state income tax, child support collection and emergency services. At the time, all of the systems in the state's network used individual servers to store application data. On top of all that, the network also served -- and still serves -- as a gateway to the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System for the entire Northeast region of the U.S.

Try as he might, Rosser couldn't find a way to centralize management of storage resources or IT services using the legacy system.

Just the management of storage at the OIT's Trenton site was difficult enough.

"In Trenton, we had hundreds of servers with terabytes of data," Rosser said. "We'd get a server for an application, have it for six months and find out there was not enough storage."

At the Trenton site alone, the cost of continuously purchasing new servers and more storage disks for existing servers was prohibitive. That first-hand view of the high cost

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of direct-attached storage convinced Rosser that a change was needed.

"I knew that we had to try and gain some economy of scale by centralizing," Rosser said.

After coming to that conclusion, Rosser wondered: was centralized IT storage for an entire state an impossible dream? He took that question to Hitachi Data Systems, the OIT's storage provider. The storage technologists at Tokyo-based Hitachi told Rosser his dream was possible, suggesting that a storage area network (SAN) would make the state's storage easier to handle.

Hitachi proposed a storage plan calling for dual SANs that included Hitachi's storage hardware and software and a SAN fabric from Bloomfield, Colo.-based McData Corp.

Rosser evaluated Hitachi's plan and gave it a green light. "The dual SAN would give us a single storage pool for all the state agencies we serve," he said.

Hitachi provided its Freedom Storage 9960 storage array integrated with McData's Intrepid 6000 Series Directors, Sphereon 3000 Series Fabric Switches and the 1000 Series Loop Switches. No new servers were purchased for this initiative. Existing Unix- and Windows NT-based servers from IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems servers were utilized.

Rosser and his team have found the implementation to be both simple and very complicated. With "excellent" support from both Hitachi and McData, getting the systems installed was easy, Rosser said. At the same time, working with the SAN architecture has been a challenge for the IT staff.

"We came from a mainframe environment, and now we're jumping to a distributed world," Rosser said. "The staff found learning the differences between the two environments to be time-consuming and not easy at all."

With the SAN online, the OIT is now able to take on any applications that agencies within the state want to hand off.

"Agencies are finding they are less and less able to attract the talent to maintain the technical support they need," Rosser said. "They are starting to come on board, and say 'take it over from us.'"

The SAN is up and running in the state's Department of Transportation, the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Environmental Protection Agency. Among the applications running in these departments is a program that tracks occurrences of the West Nile virus, as well as e-mail, calendaring and a geographic information systems application.

In the initial implementations, Rosser has seen improvements in uptime and simplified scalability and upgrades. Best of all, McData's SAN management software enables centralized control of the storage network. From a single console, Rosser can view the entire storage network. He can also manipulate the network from that console, adding, removing or modifying managed connectivity components.

EFC Manager also provides detailed logging, diagnostics, rapid error source identification and error alerts.

"The McData products allow you to talk to the servers and the tape libraries," Rosser said.

With the new SAN's features in mind and on hand, Rosser is looking to make more improvements. A disaster recovery plan is high on his agenda. When a remote site is chosen and funded, Rosser will implement the SAN technology at that site to do backups of all data. "One of the reasons we chose this technology was to have the capability to do backup remotely," he said.

Challenges lie ahead, too. Many legacy servers and their attached storage have not been brought into the SAN. "At some point in time, we'll have to begin the project to integrate the old with the new," Rosser said. Storage consolidation, he said, will be an ongoing project guided by two questions: "How do we streamline? How do we consolidate?"

For more information on Hitachi Data Systems, visit its Web site.

Additional information on McData can be found here.

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This was first published in September 2002

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