SAN price fall wins over council

Falling prices are putting storage area network technology within reach of smaller organisations such as Whangarei District Council.

Falling prices are putting storage area network technology within reach of smaller organisations such as Whangarei District Council.

The council is planning a SAN with the aim of guaranteeing that data is always available anywhere on its IT systems.

Whangarei District Council computer services advisor Bob Wolff says three years ago the council wouldn’t have been able to afford a SAN.

“They’ve been in the mainframe world for ages but only with $500,000-to-a-million-dollar price tags. Now SAN technology has come of age and pricing structures have come down so that smaller organisations like us can afford them.”

Wolff says the council’s main reason for installing a SAN is to ensure data is always available. “At the moment we have a number of servers with different amounts of disk on them. If any one of those servers malfunctions then the data is on those disks is lost until the system is fixed. The whole idea is there is no single point of failure. The SAN will have hot spare disk and they are all striped, dual power supplies and access to the servers is also doubled up with two cards and two switches.”

Wolff says the council also expects performance between the servers and storage systems to be improved. “With the SAN we’ll have gigabytes-plus connectivity. At the moment we’re just connected with 100Mbit/s connectivity.”

The third benefit is that any servers bought in the future will be cheaper because they are likely to need little disk space.

Wolff says the council will start with a SAN which is relatively empty, and will use Compaq equipment because it already uses Compaq servers. About 50% of the disks currently in the servers will be able to be unplugged and re-deployed in the SAN.

The council considered network attached storage (NAS) but didn’t see any benefit over a SAN. “We want to get to the position where we have zero points of failure in our systems. NAS isn’t much more than a server full of storage whereas a SAN will give us zero downtime.”

The council uses Corporate Vision by Fujitsu for its core applications and runs a Citrix thin-client architecture. Wolff says the fact that there is no data out on work stations and is all in one room makes migration to a SAN easier to plan for.

The move towards e-government means the council has a long-term plan to put all its information online, which has meant a lot of scanned images have to be stored.

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