New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc. is the world's fourth largest athletic shoe manufacturer, and one of the fastest growing. We focus on function over fashion. Though we have grown substantially over the past ten years –­ annual sales have gone from $210 million to $1.3 billion –­ we have not lost sight of who we are or from where we came. New Balance has always strived to innovate while driving new-product development and sustainable business growth. The formula demands a first-class information technology (IT) infrastructure of high-end enterprise applications that foster collaboration and enhance productivity.

Our most recent challenge was architecting a data storage area network (SAN) to accommodate a new product lifecycle management (PLM) solution. The SAN also had to support customer relationship management (CRM) and financial systems, plus dispersed product, manufacturing and sales teams using the PLM solution. Most importantly, this PLM solution had to enable the design teams to work collaboratively using a standard toolset. We decided to consolidate SAN islands into a single, enterprise-wide resource that New Balance's global business groups could access. We wanted to scale this network without losing control over specific applications, the demands of which change by the day, if not the hour.

The information systems (IS) teams quickly determined that our previous storage network could not scale to achieve the efficiencies of consolidation. Each of the key business applications –­ PLM, sales, CRM, financial and manufacturing ­– has unique data needs based on product development goals, financial reporting requirements, seasonal fluctuations, backup policies and even time of day. The existing SAN fabric architecture could not intelligently establish, monitor or prioritize specific network connections. This led to bottlenecks and impeded application performance. To support the new business requirements within the given budget, we had to architect storage to drive the most value from as many applications as possible.

Our new PLM solution from MatrixOne, called the eMatrix Collaboration Platform, is a costly yet powerful deployment that promises to accelerate innovation, time to market and revenue. Its usefulness was clear to management; it would allow more than 500 users in North America, Europe and the South Pacific Rim to work together in collaborative virtual workspaces across global, cross-functional project teams. However, the data needed to coordinate and manage collaborative organizational information, responsibilities, schedules, deliverables, product information and business processes is often the same data needed to manage sales, bills of material, supply chain and even marketing initiatives. The PLM solution draws product engineering and design data from the same pool of storage that the marketing, sales, CRM and financial systems draw upon. Traditional storage networking solutions would not allow this kind of data consolidation without degrading application performance during peak traffic loads.

We wanted to avoid creating isolated SAN islands that limit data availability, defeating the purpose of a shared storage network infrastructure. Instead, we architected a unified storage network backbone that allowed us to prioritize each of the applications at different times (for example, during monthly or quarterly financial cycles or nighttime backups) so that at no time would the demands of any one application slow the flow of data to any of the others.

The team wanted a storage backbone that would function like a true utility ­– an "always on" resource that would be flexible, predictable and reliable enough to be universally available at all times across the global enterprise. A storage network backbone system from Sandial provides the connection-level intelligence to maintain discrete control over storage network traffic across the unified infrastructure. The Sandial solution gives us the control to maintain flexible, dynamic connections to the data pool in a virtual direct attached environment.

Our utility approach creates on-demand dedicated connections between storage devices and the servers requesting the data. The backbone's ability to recognize one connection as distinct from another connection, even when they're traveling over the same physical path, allows New Balance to manage the storage infrastructure proactively based on business priorities, instead of reactively in response to network issues.

The storage backbone's ability to collapse disparate SAN islands into a unified infrastructure scales to the point where we can wring the maximum from our investments in a variety of business applications, beginning with the PLM solution. An enterprise data networking strategy built around the control of network bandwidth resources to optimize application and storage performance lowers costs through better resource utilization and provides the agility to respond to changing business priorities without taking systems offline.

If there's one overarching lesson the team learned, it's that any SAN assessment should start by aligning the storage network with business priorities, not the other way around. Simply supporting applications with islands of information is not enough. It is now possible to build a scalable, dynamic storage environment that is not only flexible enough to support global business efficiencies, but fully capable of reducing time to market and increasing profitability for the enterprise.

New Balance consolidated data storage into a unified backbone. With help from Sandial, New Balance can now prioritize storage network connections at different times (for example, during monthly or quarterly financial cycles or nighttime backups) to ensure that application and business requirements are met.

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