Air Force bases combine storage-area networks

The two bases that form the Air Force's 45th Space Wing are separated by about 25 miles in Florida's "hurricane alley."

However, that distance and rough weather will soon stop adversely affecting the group's data storage and backup capabilities as it moves to a consolidated storage-area network (SAN).

Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, like so many other organizations, were server-centric in terms of data storage, said Glenn Exline, manager of advanced technologies at the 45th Space Wing.

"Every time we needed more storage on a network, we'd throw another server at it," but that leads to increased overhead and vulnerabilities, Exline said. "By decreasing the number of servers, you decrease the number of potential access points and the need for more security patches and updates."

The 45th Space Wing now operates clustered servers and dual-fabric SANs at each location. The clusters maintain service continuity in the case of server failure, and the SANs facilitate backup. Within the next four months, however, the SANs will be combined, he said.

The 45th Space Wing handles support for all unmanned vehicles launched from Cape Canaveral. The group also manages range operations including telemetry, safety, weather and radar.

The wing, which began 18 months ago with 82 servers, is now down to 50 and that number will dwindle to 35 when the consolidated SAN is operational, Exline said, adding that the benefits of consolidation, such as increased storage capacity and system uptime, began almost immediately.

The wing's SAN environment includes Brocade Communication Systems' SilkWorm 3800 switches, Computer Associates International Inc.'s BrightStor SAN Manager and Enterprise Backup, EMC Corp.'s Clariion storage arrays, Dell Computer Corp.'s PowerEdge 2650 servers, and Exabyte Corp.'s X80-FC tape libraries. The equipment was procured at a total cost of $1.3 million, Exline said.

The Air Force is looking to add some advanced security features from Brocade. The company's Secure Fabric OS is a stand-alone product that runs on its switches and features policy-based access control to the entire SAN, strong authentication and encryption, and configuration management, said Kamy Kavianian, director of product marketing for network security at Brocade.


SAN payback

The Air Force's 45th Space Wing is already reaping the benefits of a phased network storage consolidation. Under the system, the Air Force has:

* Increased storage capacity by 600 percent.

* Increased system uptime.

* Reduced the backup window from 14 hours to about two hours.

* Reduced off-site tape storage from 120 tapes to 50 tapes.

* Centralized storage management for efficiency and for enhanced disaster preparedness and recovery capabilities.


"Don't let downtime get you down" [Federal Computer Week, June 16, 2003]

"Center explores upper reaches of SANs" [Federal Computer Week, Dec. 9, 2002]

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