Storing it the IP way
L&T Hazira's Heavy Engineering Division chose IP over
Fibre Channel for its SAN to save costs and to utilise the IP skills of its
by Soutiman Das Gupta
L&T's Heavy Engineering Division (HED) in Hazira (Gujarat)
needed to evolve its DAS environment and build an infrastructure that offered
better data discipline, security, and capacity. A SAN was an obvious choice
and L&T HED took that route. However, it chose to go with IP instead of
Fibre Channel (FC). The IP SAN solution provides high data availability, reliability,
security, and doesn't need extra technical manpower resources, since the existing
workforce is familiar with IP.
Heavy business at HED
The IT team of L&Ts
HED in Hazira.
V A Khargonkar, Assistant General Manager,
IT in the centre
Located 300 km north of Mumbai, L&T's HED is involved
with the design and manufacture of hi-tech custom built fabricated equipment
for core sector industries such as oil & gas, refineries, petrochemicals,
The division comprises eight Strategic Business Units (SBUs) and six nationwide
manufacturing plants located in different parts of the country.
The Hazira campus is spread over 2.5 sq. km and the Gigabit LAN runs on a Cisco
Layer 3 switched backbone. The infrastructure offers services such as Baan ERP,
intranet, e-mail, Web, and file & print to around 500 workstations.
The DAS days
The organisation used a number of Intel and Sun servers and relied on DAS to
fulfil its information storage needs. For a while, DAS proved to be a cost effective
and adequate storage solution to support various enterprise applications. DAS
devices such as DLT and DAT drives were physically connected to the host servers
through a SCSI cable, and performed periodic backup and restore functions. Over
time, the limitations of DAS began to surface.
In a typical DAS environment, each storage device is connected to a single server
and the storage can only be viewed and accessed through the OS of the attached
server. "As a result, when there are multiple storage and server pairs
it becomes increasingly difficult for the IT staff to manage and track data
on each individual server," explained V A Khargonkar, Assistant General
Manager, IT of the company.
The DAS environment needed considerable time and effort for
backup and restoration. Each DAS island required that data be streamed across
the network to the backup or restore systems, which lead to heavy network utilisation.
In the past, this was not an issue due to a big backup window, but as business
expanded, this became a problem.
Networked storage and IP
"We wanted to introduce data discipline and security
in the storage infrastructure, and wanted to consolidate the architecture. So
we decided to invest in a centralised storage solution," says Khargonkar.
After the decision to use networked storage, the company looked at several optionsNAS
servers, FC SANs, and IP SANs. It decided to go with an IP SAN as it wanted
the benefits of a SAN along with the cost-effectiveness and easy manageability
of IP. This was especially relevant because the existing IT workforce was already
well versed in IP.
After evaluating a number of storage vendors, the company decided to purchase
IP SAN solutions from Intransa.
"A key criterion for choosing the IP SAN solution was the need of a storage
solution that made use of existing skill sets. We were delighted to find, during
the pilot phase, that the IP SAN solution could be implemented and managed with
no major retraining of our staff. This certainly made a big difference,"
The IP SAN at L&T Hazira
L&T Hazira deployed Intransa IP5000, which is a modular, IP-based block-storage
SAN array with 4 to 24 TB of raw capacity. It consists of a storage controller
module and a disk enclosure, which centralises storage devices to make them
available across a network.
L&T Hazira (Gujarat) designs and manufactures hi-tech custom built
fabricated equipment for core sector industries such as oil & gas,
refineries, petrochemicals, and fertilisers. It has a 2.5 sq km campus
LAN with 500 workstations running applications such as Baan ERP, e-mail,
intranet, Web and file & print.
It had to evolve its DAS storage environment to a more reliable,
secure, cost efficient, and flexible architecture.
The company chose to deploy an IP SAN solution.
The solution is easy to scale since new capacity can be added on-the-fly.
Backups are simple to make, and availability of data is very high. The
cost of storage per MB is very low, and since it is IP-based, there is
no need for extra trained manpower.
superior utilisation at a lower cost
"We were finally able to manage our growing storage resources and deliver
high data availability across the enterprise network. All this at significantly
lower cost per MB of data stored," said Khargonkar.
The solution delivers superior resource utilisation by reducing the need to
purchase individual servers to increase storage needs.
"If we need to add more storage capacity, all we have to do is mount a
new disk enclosure in the rack and plug the Ethernet cable to the Gigabit Ethernet
switch," explained Khargonkar. The IP5000 storage controller will automatically
recognise the new disks and make free space available to provision and host
Khargonkar said, "The solution also dramatically improves the efficiency
of the spare storage capacity by creating a global spare for all the disks in
the system so that when a failure occurs, the IP5000 will automatically put
the spare to use."
The iSCSI-based solution also simplifies clustering and management of the storage
system with a StorControl management tool that lets systems administrators manage
and monitor the entire IP5000 system, automate tasks, and even assign individual
Administrators can increase storage capacity 'on the fly' with a simple 'drag
and drop' function of the volume bar. This resource allocation dramatically
simplifies how the company plans and allocates its storage capacity, dynamically
assigns unused capacity to servers during times of high demand, and reallocates
that same space when it is no longer needed.
The company currently uses around 35 percent of the IP SAN's capacity.
Backups become simpler
With the help of the IP SAN architecture, the company created a centralised
pool of storage to ease its backup and restore methods and reduce completion
time. Backups are now run directly on the back-end storage network rather than
the user-facing front-end. An incremental backup of all the servers can be bypassed
by leveraging Intransa's Snapshot technology.
The previous DAS configuration required tape cartridges to be physically changed
on each server. The IP SAN enables the continuously growing backup log files
to be kept online. This facilitates the rapid identification of archived data
for restoration. Data can be restored from disk by mounting a snapshot volume.
A snapshot home directory has been created so that users can complete restoration
on their own. This reduces help desk requests freeing IT technicians to spend
their time on other projects.
The company faced a number of technology and administrative
challenges when it built its storage infrastructure. There were some problems
in the installation of clusters, and in printer management.
The workforce was used to storing their data on DAS devices. It was a challenge
to convince them to store the business-critical information on the centralised
system. Users also had to be trained to log into the storage domain instead
of the NDS.
"Although we had to face these challenges in the beginning, we were able
to find effective workarounds," said Khargonkar.
He created a storage policy document and manages the storage infrastructure
according to it. The policy contains information on data retention, security,
On the anvil
Till now, L&T Hazira has performed consolidation of the enterprise's information,
which includes files and drawings. In the next phase, the organisation will
look at storage systems for its Informix database. The company also plans to
implement a box-to-box mirroring solution for disaster recovery.
Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org