A way to grow more storage

When it came to keeping up with his organization's growing data-storage

needs, Randy Oehrle, network administrator for the city of Overland Park,

Kan., knew that "the handwriting was on the wall two to three years ago."

The city's data-storage capability at that time consisted of the disk

drives installed on the many Microsoft Corp. Windows NT and Novell Inc.

NetWare servers at the two sites that constitute the city's administrative

offices. The situation was stable, and growth was manageable.

"[But] we knew that would change as we started to deploy new applications

such as an Oracle [Corp.] database, PeopleSoft [software], J.D. Edwards

[solutions], a permit-tracking system and Microsoft Office 2000," Oehrle

said.

City officials considered but then ruled out using network-attached

storage (NAS) to expand its storage capacity. "NAS uses the network, and

we felt that there was too much traffic on the [local-area network] already,"

Oehrle said. Instead, officials wanted a server-attached storage solution

that could be easily managed.

"We wanted to put our storage in one place," Oehrle said. "We wanted

it to be configurable on the fly. We wanted a minimum of a terabyte of capacity.

And we wanted to connect about 20 servers to it. Those were our basic criteria."

The requirements were sent to EMC Corp., IBM Corp., Hitachi Data Systems

Corp., Symbios Inc. (now part of LSI Logic Corp.) and Digital Equipment

Corp. (now a division of Compaq Computer Corp.). In 1998, SANs were still

in their infancy, and most vendors charged a premium based on the server

attachment requirement.

That was about the time that a new company, XIOtech, contacted Oehrle

with its solution. The new array featured an internal switch that facilitated

multiple server connections and the right initial capacity of 200G. The

company also offered a strategy for growing both server connections and

storage capacities that appealed to Oehrle.

"Everyone was trying to sell me disks," he said. "This company offered

me space — any RAID level I wanted, any parity, any amount of disk." XIOtech

also offered the lowest bid — $63,000 — which was well below the highest

bid of $354,000 for a comparable solution from EMC.

Deployment in early 1999 went smoothly. The city added a second array

at the police department to provide a mirror for the first. The arrays use

a T-1 link between the two facilities, which are located approximately seven

miles apart, and provide backup against a facility disaster at either site.

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