The New Zealand Dairy Group has “put a toe into the water” with a storage area network at its RD1.com web-based information subsidiary, says computer operations manager Fraser Magee.
The structure of the RD1.com company includes databases ,applications servers, links to legacy applications and data, as well as the web server at the front end. The SAN is chiefly relevant to the first two.
“The SAN allows us flexibility in the sense of being able to move disk [storage units] around from one machine to another and provide service from any disk to any machine and any user,” Magee says.
Magee says the company is in its early days with SAN implementation but it seems to be fulfilling its performance promise. The flexibility has not yet been fully tested, he admits.
The ultimate promise of SAN is to allow the same disk storage to be accessed by any machine using any operating system. The RD1 machines both run with True64 Unix and are now working smoothly together. However, the company hit problems during implementation because they ran different versions of True64.
There are relatively small volumes of disk in use at present. The available capacity is 600GB, but only 100GB is being used. Room for growth is a priority as NZDG sees SANs as the way forward to rationalise over-complicated and fragmented disk storage.
The company intends to take SAN into a greater range of its operations later this year, says Magee, beginning with core systems — the Oracle Consumer Packaged Good suite. This will involve bringing in systems which run under Digital (Compaq) VMS and other versions of Unix. In time, he says, NT and Netware platforms could also be brought in.
Previously, the company used direct attached storage, Magee says, but since RD1 was a new start-up, it was judged appropriate to use as a first venture. Being a web-driven system, there was a reasonable amount of guesswork in storage requirements; it wasn’t known how quickly it was going to grow, so NZDG wanted to provide plenty of headroom.
Alternative solutions were considered, including network-attached storage (NAS), but it was thought that fibre channel attach in SAN would give better performance.
“FC attach was not something we’d gone for before,” says Magee, “but in the event, it was implemented comparatively easily.”