CATEGORY: Storage

REVIEWER: Steve Hultquist, chief technology officer and vice president of engineering and operations at Accumedia.

BACKGROUND: Accumedia provides content management, delivery, personalization and operations as a managed application suite to end users. Its success hinges on its ability to scale spontaneously, providing customers with consistently reliable service and access to its administrative and production Web sites.

PLATFORMS: Network Appliance (NetApp) filer, SPARC Solaris, Intel Linux and Intel Windows 2000.

PROBLEM SOLVED: With increased end-user demand for quality performance and reliable access, Accumedia's foremost concern is its storage architecture. Independently scaling general purpose computing systems for storage is a significant advantage for managed operations. The ability to increase the amount of storage space available for both database and files, independently of the number and size of computer systems, allows for significantly more degrees of freedom in the design and deployment of an overall system.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The NetApp F760 filer provides "set it and forget it" storage for all of our products and customer data. Management of storage and database volumes is done entirely within the Network Appliance Write Anywhere File Layout (WAFL) file system in the Data ONTAP operating system ­ within the filers. This means that none of the computing systems spend cycles managing volumes of data in the file systems ­ which with any other storage architecture would be necessary considering the multiterabyte storage requirements of our continuously expanding customer bases. Additionally, the ease of administration and management of the filers also allows Accumedia to scale the operational infrastructure and handle multiple customers, thus providing both Accumedia and our customers with economies of scale and the highest value possible.

STRENGTHS: The NetApp filers are simple, reliable, easy to administer and offer high performance. Adding a redundant array of independent disks (RAID) is as simple as plugging in the disks and typing a single command to place it into a volume. One of the key assets of the filers is their reliability. Should failure ever occur, the spares kit provides for replacement in less than five minutes. Accumedia has considerably reduced the costs associated with managing an extensive storage infrastructure made to satisfy multiple customers. The ability to store database data on the NetApp filer provides the added benefit of a reduced database administration load because the filer handles virtually all of the physical storage administration without administration staff overhead ­ a critical factor due to the economic slowdown and reassessment of information technology (IT) budgets.

WEAKNESSES: The NetApp filers offer 12 terabytes of storage per device and require clustering to expand beyond that level.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Accumedia selected the NetApp filers to eliminate its administrative and computational overhead in data storage management. Most other products, including storage area network (SAN) solutions, require the historically extensive file system management, plus they rely on the CPU of the general-purpose computer systems to manage those file systems. Accumedia requires independent scalability which other products and technologies did not provide. The NetApp filer allows Accumedia to separate the file system and database volume management from the more general-purpose tasks of running a business. The filers are dedicated to one thing ­ storage management. Overhead is minimized with the filers which are dedicated to handling all file system and database volumes.

DELIVERABLES: Accumedia uses the product to deliver database volumes and file systems for production and development infrastructures. Oracle and DB2 clients running in multiple systems and using multiple languages access the database volumes. UNIX (Solaris and Linux) and Windows 2000 systems access the file systems. Additionally, Accumedia uses multiple network interfaces on the NetApp filers, including multiple gigabit Ethernet ports on the production system.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The vendor participates with Accumedia in a bidirectional relationship, providing insight into future features and capabilities. A primary example of vendor support is the automated alerting system. The system "phones home" with any significant issues, such as a disk failure. Disks are then proactively shipped for replacement automatically to eliminate downtime and other revenue-eating issues related to failing drives.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is entirely sufficient for running the product.

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