Case Study: FICO Implements Tape SAN


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Fair Isaac Corp., best known as FICO, is the credit-scoring agency that enables consumers to check credit ratings and manage their financial health online. However, the San Raphael, Calif.-based company's primary business is the delivery of creative business analytic modeling via software, service bureau, and ASP solutions. Almost all leading U.S. banks and credit card issuers, as well as a host of insurers, major retailers, telecommunications providers, healthcare organizations, and government agencies rely on Fair Isaac solutions. Data storage and recovery, therefore, are absolutely business critical.

When FICO decided to migrate from mainframes to a distributed architecture environment in 1998, no one foresaw the storage sprawl and backup overload nightmare they would find themselves in by 2002.

"We had 20 DLT 8000 tape drives handling 3 TB per day of full and incremental backups, with reliability running at 60% due to poor configuration and hardware failures, requiring extensive manual intervention," explains Simon Wiltshire, Open Systems Director at FICO. He quickly realized that the company required a rebuild of its storage environment from the ground up.

Several guiding principles were established for the project. The new storage infrastructure not only needed to have in place the basics of scalability, redundancy, and reliability, it also had to be able to cope with continued future growth. To achieve this, FICO focused on operational simplicity as well as leveraging the capabilities of existing staff.

In order to meet these core requirements, FICO gravitated towards an experienced consultancy with proven tape SAN experience. It selected Minneapolis, Minn.-based CNT, which also happened to have local resources to service a FICO data center sited in Plymouth, Minn. CNT provided a project manager and a technical expert who worked closely with FICO staff and StorageTek hardware engineers. Having the internal team involved throughout the entire project lifecycle was seen as vital to success, rather than bringing in a complete consultancy team or outsourcing the project.

After a thorough review of the options, the architecture finalized to meet FICO's SAN requirements included a single StorageTek 9310 PowderHorn Tape Library storage module, 8 StorageTek 9940A tape drives, VERITAS NetBackup Data Center, Brocade SilkWorm 2800 fabric switches, and Sun V880 backup servers. This provided both the data storage capacity and transfer horsepower required to meet FICO's present needs and offered easy expansion of the SAN for future potential.

The following diagram illustrates the architecture of the FICO Tape SAN:


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