Computerworld

Aviation body flies with cheap iSCSI system

  • Stephen Bell (Computerworld New Zealand)
  • 10 July, 2005 23:15

New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority says it will make major savings by stick with its all-IP approach to networking and adopting iSCSI storage in place of fibre-channel SAN.

The iSCSI solution, based on An EMC NetWin 200 Microsoft Windows 2003 Storage Server appliance, hosting FalconStor software, was installed last week.

"We have a converged IT system including VoIP, which all runs over IP," says communications and IT manager William Neal.

"With a good high-speed LAN, I thought we should use our existing switches, two Cisco 4503s, rather than install a new fibre-channel switch." CAA had an RA4100 SAN from HP installed "four or five years ago", but this can longer able meet business requirements, says Neal. It was at the end of its life, as well as being too small and slow for growing storage demands. Fibre channel-based replacement options were "cost-prohibitive", says Neal. At the same time, EMC came up with a new solution using software from New York-based FalconStor.

This was installed on an EMC NetWin 200 storage server appliance under Windows 2003. Microsoft iSCSI Initiator software was then installed on the servers, which were equipped with gigabit Ethernet network cards This allowed CAA to use its existing dual, redundant IP network infrastructure with two storage virtual LANs. An EMC Clariion CX300 storage array was connected directly to the NetWin appliance.

"We spent most of a day testing local mirror drives and Raid 5 on iSCSI and fibre channel, and the iSCSI was streets ahead on Mbytes/s, response time and average I/O," Neal says. The equipment all went in very smoothly, he says. The biggest job was controlling the changeover and timing the necessary outage.

Commentators still see iSCSI as a low-end technology. But CAA is a relatively small organisation, so Neal does not see it outgrowing the technology and having to change back again to fibre channel.

"We have 1 Tbyte of storage, which doubles what we have, and we can add another Tbyte easily to the current chassis."

The iSCSI solution also allows better management of disaster recovery and business continuity through virtualisation. Backup and recovery have been managed on a server-by-server basis for the three most critical applications, Exchange, SQL and file-and-print, which were replicated to an installation in Auckland. Now an array-based solution is possible, which backs up all the storage as one virtual entity.

The entire solution came in at about NZ$70,000 (US$47,000) -- a fraction of the cost of fibre-channel SAN, Neal says.