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Issue of April 2004 

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Consolidation pays off at VSNL

At VSNL the needs of business compel the company to use appropriate technology. In this context, it is essential that the storage systems powering its IT infrastructure are top of the line. by Anil Patrick R

When you talk about Indian ISPs, the name that immediately comes to mind is VSNL (Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited). Six months ago, VSNL used DAS devices for its storage needs. But being the country's largest ISP demanded that it should upgrade to a more efficient storage architecture due to the ever-increasing needs.

The organization realized that the primary business need was to consolidate the storage spread over multiple DAS devices. The benefits of this approach would be manifold. It would allow flexibility to handle failures and cut down costs of incremental storage.

This was crucial for a service provider like VSNL where downtime is fatal to business. It was determined that a SAN was the optimal solution for these requirements.

"The primary need was to have a storage solution that would give us the flexibility to handle failures and cut down on the costs of incremental storage. In addition to these, we required high-speed connectivity that could be achieved only by using a SAN," said Dr Saurav Dutta, Dy. General Manager (Systems), VSNL.

Architecture to store

The storage solution used in VSNL can be divided into two systems. The first storage system is used for Internet messaging and the second system for voice, data, and network analyzer applications.

The Internet messaging applications are powered by a SAN from HDS. The SAN has a storage capacity of 2 TB that is scalable up to 5 TB. This storage powers a billing solution (portal using an Oracle database backend) and a Netscape Messaging solution.

Business benefits

With the introduction of the SAN, VSNL has been able to achieve a considerable reduction in storage costs. This is due to the costs saved from avoiding incremental storage expenses.

According to Dr Dutta, VSNL's savings due to the SAN solution have been sizeable. "We have been able to achieve around forty percent savings in purchase and deployment costs. This includes savings due to the use of the huge virtual storage pool achieved by the consolidation of devices," said Dr Dutta.

Wastage of storage space is another important aspect, which was avoided due to the use of a SAN. In SANs, all that is seen is a single large virtual file system. This allows the company to use the storage in the most optimal way. This has translated to a lot of savings for VSNL, since the nature of its business needs constant storage upgrades.

Way ahead

Future plans for VSNL are to upgrade the SAN capacity to 5 TB. This is a hassle-free arrangement due to the innate SAN architecture. "It is possible to just plug in hard disks and upgrade up to 5 TB. This calls for no measures like software upgrades," said Dr Dutta.

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