CATEGORY: Storage

REVIEWER: Michael Burke, director of information systems and networking for Daytona Beach Community College.

BACKGROUND: Daytona Beach Community College (DBCC) offers a comprehensive array of courses of study to more than 33,000 enrolled students. The two-year college has four campuses, one center and ambitious plans for growth with a new Advanced Technology Center opening in August. DBCC needed an information technology (IT) infrastructure to support the college's expansion.

PLATFORMS: DataCore's SANsymphony storage virtualization software manages DBCC's first storage area network (SAN), which integrates Brocade switches, IBM servers, StorageTek disk arrays and tape library, and Veritas Software for data backup. The campus network is a heterogeneous environment, including HP/UX, Windows NT and Novell NetWare.

PROBLEM SOLVED: DBCC's IT architecture was under tremendous strain because of the growth of data being produced by all areas of college administration, including student records, accounting, registration and e-mail. We were frequently running out of disk space ­ adding 30 to 50 gigabytes every 10 months ­ which was becoming more expensive and difficult to maintain. Our IT staff was overworked, and the systems could only be maintained at night. SANsymphony has consolidated storage from all of our computing platforms into a virtualized pool, allowing volumes of available storage capacity to be served up and reallocated on demand to any application on the SAN.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: SANsymphony has met our key requirements: to cost- effectively manage our exploding data requirements and simplify both day-to-day operations and strategic storage management planning. We also wanted to maximize the effectiveness of our IT staff and ensure a prompt return on investment. The software enables us to better support core business operations by tapping excess storage capacity from any system on the SAN and reallocating it to the department or application that needs it. We also needed to be able to leverage legacy hardware, while ensuring an economical and flexible path for the future.

STRENGTHS: SANsymphony virtualizes all our storage resources so we can easily add, reassign and upgrade our storage with a simple drag-and-drop, which is seamless to our users. Users actually noticed improved speed of data retrieval with the SAN, because SANsymphony's caching capabilities improve throughput performance and mask any unfavorable characteristics of underlying disks. Being able to get the most out of our existing hardware is a key strength of the software, and SANsymphony's open, standards-driven approach to storage management will support new strategic technologies as they become available. SANsymphony ensures enterprise-level data protection through a fault-tolerant architecture that eliminates single points of failure. These key features have made managing our data ­ even as it continues to expand ­ relatively simple and straightforward.

WEAKNESSES: SANsymphony can create point-in-time snapshots of volumes in the storage pool for data continuity and backups. However, in our complex database environment, this requires integration and scripting expertise to automate the process of quiescing servers and flushing cache throughout the data path. At this time, SANsymphony does not provide a simple GUI for this process, although the appropriate APIs are available for those with programming knowledge.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We were looking for a cost- effective integrated solution that we could maintain in house and would simplify the management of our storage resources. Proprietary solutions from the leading vendors were either too costly, didn't offer enough capacity or couldn't support all our platforms. Our mixed environment represents a significant investment for the college, and migrating to a single platform wasn't an option. SANsymphony met our budgetary requirements. Our SAN installation provides the necessary capacity to manage future growth with streamlined storage management and advanced security for our most critical information. It's important to work with an integrator who understands the needs of the business.

DELIVERABLES: SANsymphony's virtualization approach has enabled a multivendor SAN that will meet our growth needs, leveraging our investment. Our IT staff can reallocate storage on the fly with the software's intuitive interface. System downtime has been eliminated, avoiding crisis management.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Our storage integrator, NaviStor, and DataCore partnered to deliver customer support and training. We were up and running with only a half-day's training.

DOCUMENTATION: We've found the documentation to be thorough, informative, well-written and organized, although we rarely need to reference the product documentation.

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