BACKGROUND: If you are a power utility, government transportation department or county assessing agency, pictures of the geography that you are responsible for can be priceless. That is the philosophy behind GEOSPAN Corporation, a Maple Grove, Minnesota-based business with a patented process for creating spatially indexed video databases. Spatially indexed video images make it possible for government offices, utilities and other industries to know exactly where their assets are and what they look like, whether they are power lines, street signs, parking meters, fire hydrants or tax parcels.

PROBLEM SOLVED: GEOSPAN uses customized vans and helicopters, each equipped with eight broadcast quality cameras and interfaced with global position system satellites to collect video data of the urban streetscape and infrastructure. The resulting image databases, up to 2TB in size, are made available on CD-ROM, LAN-based hard drives or via the Internet. GEOVISTA software makes it possible to view, inspect, survey and assess massive amounts of geography at the desktop.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: For GEOSPAN the need for sophisticated storage management was a strategic one ­ without it the company would struggle to achieve its business objectives. A thorough review of every major storage device on the market was made. XIOtech's MAGNITUDE disk array emerged as the top choice in terms of functionality and affordability. MAGNITUDE is the only storage solution that allowed GEOSPAN to streamline operations and improve data availability by attaching multiple servers simultaneously to stored video data. MAGNITUDE is configured with sixteen 18GB disk drives, for a total capacity of over 280GB. Four host adapter boards allow GEOSPAN to connect up to four different servers to shared storage. MAGNITUDE is extremely reliable and can move data at 80MB/second. GEOSPAN is also using XIOtech's MagniCluster software. MagniCluster is a sophisticated set of array management tools that enable implementation of eight-way server clusters, where any server can act as an automatic failure replacement for any other server. When used on the 1TB, Fibre Channel attached MAGNITUDE disk array, MagniCluster software provides enterprise storage solutions in a centrally managed, high availability, storage area network (SAN) with data accessibility superior to any other storage solution in the market.

STRENGTHS: MAGNITUDE is the fastest disk array product on the market today. It provides 50,000 I/Os per second and is ten times faster than other disk arrays ­ speed that provides unmatched data accessibility. MAGNITUDE's innovative architecture and MagniCluster software provide flexible capacity planning and space management that stripes RAID sets on every installed disk drive without capacity loss. Centrally managed storage, easier configuration, shared redundant components, improved data accessibility and efficient capacity planning provided by MAGNITUDE reduce the total cost of ownership of storage.

WEAKNESSES: MAGNITUDE and MagniCluster are presently available for NT and Netware storage environments. Product for UNIX is not available now but will be in the near future.

SELECTION CRITERIA: GEOSPAN required a reliable, fast RAID storage solution that would allow connection of multiple servers and provide clustering for fail-over without manual manipulation. Most systems evaluated were in the million dollar range. MAGNITUDE was the only system GEOSPAN could find that is both functionally flexible and affordable for ourselves and our customers.

DELIVERABLES: Prior to installation of the MAGNITUDE, GEOSPAN was using portable hard disk drives that were moved from server to server for each step in the process. Even though this technique was time-consuming and inefficient, it was the only practical means of sharing the massive amount of data generated among the servers. With MAGNITUDE, processing GEOSPAN's video is shared without manual manipulation and servers are clustered for unsurpassed reliability and accessibility.

VENDOR SUPPORT: MAGNITUDE installation was done with the assistance of the XIOtech technical support team. The unit is easy to use and if GEOSPAN has any problems or questions, this team is readily available.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation was extremely useful in the installation process and provided excellent technical information for the hardware and software components.

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