Case Study: It's All Sun and SAN at The Weather Channel Page 2


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Fractured Storage

Over the past 20 years TWC has grown into a multifaceted media enterprise delivering targeted information worldwide. To begin with, there is its flagship cable station, The Weather Channel, which is available to 95 million cable subscribers in North and South America.

Add to this another 18 million people viewing 450 million pages each month on its Web sites -- U.S.'s www.weather.com as well as associated sites in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Brazil, and Latin America. Then there are the radio stations in 250 markets and the more than 150 online (MSNBC.com, Excite, Yahoo, AOL) and wireless (Sprint, Nextel, Palm Computing) organizations that use its weather information.

Finally, there are the more than 100 newspapers that receive customized local weather maps, satellite images, air quality forecasts, and ski or surf reports.

All totaled, TWC tracks, assembles, and disseminates weather information on 80,000 different locations worldwide, steadily feeding the data out to 10,000 customer servers. TWC has strict service level agreements with its clients, so any type of slow or downtime is completely unacceptable. TWC recently redesigned its storage architecture to better meet the growing needs of its clients.

Previously, the company had a broad mix of storage in use. It had two EMC Symmetrix units, a 1.5 Terabyte unit and a .5TB loaner. In addition, most servers had their own direct-attached storage, primarily Sun Microsystems' D1000 disk arrays with Sun A3000 controllers or local RAID arrays for Windows and Novell servers.

In addition, various hardware components from Silicon Graphics, Inc. and other companies had their own vendor-specific disk arrays. While this provided adequate storage capacity, it was a nightmare to manage.

"The primary storage problem was less one of capacity than ease of utilization," says Hamilton. "As projects waxed and waned, the amount of storage allocated to a given server was often inappropriate, and a considerable amount of disk space was either wasted or physically moved from server to server to accommodate changing requirements."

TWC, therefore, launched a search to find a suitable replacement. It evaluated products from MTI Technology Corp. of Tustin, Calif., Sun, IBM, EMC, and others. Selection criteria included price/performance, expandability, supportability, data protection, and performance. In the end, the company went with a Hitachi Freedom Storage Lightning 9900 Series Model 9960.

"The Hitachi was the hands-down winner," Hamilton explains, "with twice the performance of the nearest competitor, no single points of failure, and layered redundancy such as dual FC-AL (Fibre Channel Arbitrated Loops -- a high-speed serial bus standard) to the spindles."

Page 3: Meeting Expectations

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