REVIEWER: Jeremy Weeks, system administrator for Clare Inc.

BACKGROUND: Clare, Inc., based in Beverly, Massachusetts, is a semiconductor manufacturer and a global leader in optically isolated solid state relays (OptoMOS), mixed-signal custom ASICs and ASSP integrated circuits for the telecommunications market. Clare's products ensure reliable connectivity throughout the global public telecommunications network.

PLATFORMS: Clare maintains a highly diverse environment including HP, Sun and Compaq hardware. We rely on Oracle in our financial and manufacturing departments, CAD and simulation for engineering, plus corporate file services. Operating systems include HP-UX 10.20 and 11.0, Solaris 8 and Novell 5.1.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Our heterogeneous environment had become extremely difficult and costly to manage, and tape backup of company data was incomplete and sporadic. To solve our problem, Dot Hill engineered the SANnet storage system, an enterprise-wide storage area network with almost 1.5TB of storage capacity including SANnet 7128 and 6100, Dot Hill's SANpath 3.1 and SANscape 2.3 management software, and a 33-slot, 2-drive LTO tape library using Veritas Data Center.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Dot Hill's solution has given back 800 hours of data management time to Clare, Inc. Its seamless integration with Novell, HP and Sun as well as Veritas has allowed our system administrators to focus their energies in other directions. We originally expected an ROI of three years, but the attachment of two additional central servers to the SAN has led to a projected ROI of just under two years. Our servers' performance has improved in more than one way because our machines are no longer bound by disk I/O. Additionally, we look forward to improving or replacing our current servers without having the additional cost of external RAID devices.

STRENGTHS: The most competitive advantage is Dot Hill's guarantee of 99.9998+ percent uptime, verified through their Level 3 certification by the Network Equipment Building System (NEBS). NEBS certification indicates the same rigorous reliability standards required by global telephone networks. SANnet contains NEBS-certified hardware that is fully integrated with software and network-enabling accessories. Each SANnet solution comprises mix-and-match components that can be customized by interface (fibre and SCSI), capacity requirements, type of RAID protection and level of fault tolerance.

WEAKNESSES: SANnet 7128 uses four Fabric Aware fibre hubs instead of fibre switches. While this cuts the cost significantly (two switches cost approximately $60,000), several servers can be affected if the system is not dual-pathed and one hub fails. However, the point of a SAN is redundancy so everything should be dual-pathed anyway.

SELECTION CRITERIA: In addition to Dot Hill, Clare, Inc. evaluated equipment from Compaq, EMC-Clarion, Network Appliance, Sun and HP. We found Dot Hill's SANnet to be superior in several areas. As a full fibre open systems architecture, with better scalability and investment protection, SANnet was technologically superior to the proposals we received from other vendors. The frosting on the cake for us was Dot Hill's competitive pricing.

DELIVERABLES: SANnet's primary yield is time. In addition to the time we've regained from tedious data management tasks, we have increased server performance which, in turn, increases productivity, allowing us to place a greater value on that thing no one ever seems to have enough of ­ time.

VENDOR SUPPORT: In our company, as in most others, the IT department and manufacturing department, along with corporate functions, must work together smoothly. Dot Hill was able to facilitate this process by involving all the areas of the company that would be affected by our purchase. Dot Hill brought the engineering department together with the IT department, built a business case and walked it up the ladder. Since the implementation, we've enjoyed reporting back to Dot Hill on how we are seeing the immediate benefits of our system.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is thorough, easy to understand and does not require advanced or specialized knowledge.

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