IP SAN-shouldering storage workloads
Many Indian enterprises have shown keen interest in deploying
IP SANs, and a few have successfully done so. We consider some companies who
use IP SANs to take care of their storage workloads and the various benefits
from these implementations. by Soutiman Das Gupta
Mindful of IP in the SAN
A growing BPO organisation, Wipro Spectramind (Wipro) had to deploy a suitable
networked storage infrastructure to keep a grip on the changing business and
IT environment. The size and volume of stored data was growing at a fast pace,
and new devices were being added every other day.
The company decided to deploy a SAN in order to organise its information assets
better. It chose IP SAN technology because it was based on IP and easy to manage,
required no extra manpower training, and was cost-effective.
Growing business and IT
"To cater to the needs of the growing business and data sizes, we regularly
added new servers. In addition we had to deploy more tape devices, which were
attached directly or networked, to ensure that the growing corporate data was
backed up reliably and within shrinking backup windows," says Rajiv Gerela,
General Manager, Technology, Wipro.
The delay in retrieving data often hampered the effectiveness of frontline executives.
Faced with data management issues and mounting storage costs, the company decided
to look for a centralised and virtualised storage solution, which would not
only allow Wipro to easily provision additional storage on the network but also
enable data backup and restore in a near-online mode.
The move to IP SAN
The company chose to move directly to IP SAN instead of playing safe with the
tried and tested FC technology.
The storage infrastructure is built around Intransa's IP 5000 solution, which
is a modular block storage array. The current storage capacity is 1.5 TB, scalable
to 24 TB. There are two Pentium 4 servers with 1 GB RAM running Windows 2000.
The switching infrastructure uses Gigabit Ethernet.
"The solution allows us to take snapshots at a point
in time on alternate volumes and thus helps reduce incremental tape backup requirements,"
The IP SAN infrastructure runs a number of applications that are mission-critical
for the company. They are:
- MIS for different functions or processes
- Employee databases
- Billing databases
- Intranet knowledge-based sites for different processes
- Mail store
- File server
MIS and billing databases are the most critical applications since they are
used for revenue tracking. The intranet knowledge base is critical for effectively
training new recruits, while the mail or file store is important for business-critical
data such as mail, client communications, and performance scores.
The use of the IP SAN has benefited Wipro in several ways. The cost per MB of
storage is low. "We are now able to dynamically grow and provision our
storage to individual hosts and expand volumes for individual applications or
users with no disruptions or downtime on the server. This is a significant improvement
over our previous DAS configuration," reveals Gerela.
There is no need for additional manpower that is trained in FC technology since
the existing workforce is adept at IP. The company also saves on additional
disks required for multiple DAS set-ups. From now on, each time the business
needs to add more storage capacity, all the administrator needs to do is mount
a new set of disks. The infrastructure also allows fast backups and restores,
saving valuable time.
As business grows and new devices are introduced to the network the company
does not need to change its information storage infrastructure much. The infrastructure
has the flexibility to increase usage to any new application or server requirement.
Any new investment is only incremental in terms of hardware and costs.
"We will no longer need to provision new DAS set-ups, saving a lot on the
extra disks required for each such setup to get the required RAID levels,"
Insured against information loss
Insurance major HDFC Standard Life was successfully growing its business in
the highly competitive insurance arena. Since the business of insurance traditionally
relies on the ability to process large volumes of data, the company decided
to harness its data with a content management system on a SAN.
It deployed a unified storage solution, which had a combination of an IP SAN
and a Fabric Attached Storage (FAS) system. The solution gave the company flexibility
and control of its information assets, along with the means for rapid backup
Eliminate the islands
The insurance business generates enormous volumes of data, including client
data, financial data, policy applications, claims paperwork, and medical records.
The company initially deployed individual local storage servers to support PDF
and TIFF document images, workflow databases, and other application and user
But this approach became increasingly inefficient as the company's customer
base expanded. Some servers were pushed to capacity, while others remained under-utilised.
Moreover, increasing storage capacity by adding new servers directly increased
server administration and management costs.
"Relying on isolated storage resources threatened our business growth and
flexibility," recalls Sunil Rawlani, CIO, HDFC Standard Life. "The
inability to share data across systems required manual processes to update information
in multiple areas."
This led to the slowing down of the co-ordination process among policyholders
and agents. A central repository for all of the unstructured data was needed
to give customers, policyholders and shareholders online access.
Running the SAN
After evaluating various storage options, HDFC Standard Life determined that
a unified storage solution would best address its storage consolidation, performance,
and management requirements; and FileNet's advanced content management and business
process management solution would be best-suited to manage all disparate data
and facilitate online access.
The company replaced its existing DAS servers with a NetApp FAS system to support
its Windows 2000 environment. An IP SAN from Network Appliance provides private
network access via an iSCSI Logical Unit Number (LUN) to a FileNet Image Services
server and supports scanned document images stored in both the FileNet repository
and FileNet database storage.
The NetApp FAS system simultaneously provides high-speed
NAS for other types of FileNet images, application data, and Oracle database
volumes used for workflow management in the TIBCO Staffware Process Suite. Thus,
the same NetApp system is used in both a NAS and SAN configuration to meet the
different storage needs of different kinds of data, illustrating the benefits
of deploying unified storage.
IP SAN benefits
From an operational standpoint, one of the major benefits of the solution is
the ability to increase storage capacity on demand, thereby ensuring a high
degree of scalability to meet growing business and application needs.
The IP SAN storage solution offers important flexibility, including the capability
to switch protocols and share files across multiple application environments-without
storage infrastructure changes.
The solution has facilitated simple, rapid backup and restoration of damaged
or accidentally deleted files and databases using NetApp's Snapshot technology.
This creates point-in-time copies of only incremental changes since the last
backup. The process that once involved recalling tapes from off-site storage,
loading tape data, and restoring files has been reduced to an almost instantaneous
"One of the keys to success in the insurance business is the ability to
seamlessly control and manage enormous volumes of data," asserts Rawlani.
The company now spends less time managing its storage infrastructure, leaving
more time and resources to strategise for future needs.
Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org