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Although the 9960 scales up to 88TB, The Weather Channel only needed 12TB to start with. The storage units, of course, were just part of the overall SAN setup. Four Brocade Communications Systems Silkworm 2800 switches route the server traffic. Emulex Corp. (Costa Mesa, Calif.) LP8000 and JNI Corp. (San Diego) JNI 1063 Host Bus Adapters completed the hardware acquisitions.
"We sidestepped a lot of potential zoning headaches by dedicating specific Hitachi ports and Brocade switches for use by Windows and Novell operating systems," says Hamilton, "effectively creating parallel SANs front-ending the array."
To manage the SAN, TWC continued using VERITAS Software Corp.'s storage management software, Foundation Suite, and its NetBackup program, but also added several specific pieces of Hitachi software, including its SANtinel, CruiseControl, and ShadowImage products. With these in place, Hamilton says that the company was able to greatly improve the speed with which it could respond to customer requests.
"Satisfying ad-hoc requests for the odd few-hundred gig can now be filled in less than an hour," she explains, "as compared to the days it typically required to plan 'from what server do I borrow disk and when can I shut that server down to do it' games."
The other key element -- ensuring reliability -- is solved by the 9960 sending status and alert information to Hitachi's support center. If the support staff is able to, they fix any problems remotely; otherwise, they contact TWC's data center staff in Atlanta and instruct them on how to address the issue locally.
Once the SAN was up and running, The Weather Channel added another cabinet with 4TB RAID-5 storage, 16GB cache, and four additional Fibre Channel ports to meet future expansion needs.
As with any major IT project, some problems did crop up during the installation. The Hitachi 9960 was online within the first week of initial power on, but there were some difficulties with migrating some of the servers over to the SAN, primarily in the area of making the HBA drivers work correctly. Hamilton also says that better planning and facility requirement definitions would have made everything go smoother. Nevertheless, the project has achieved its goal.
"The 9960 has performed flawlessly and has very much met our expectations," she says. "Our ability to be responsive to our customers has improved 10,000%."