Virtualization helps school with storage woes

Storage virtualization is the cat's meow for veterinary college

Provisioning is a painless matter of moving volumes to any server that needs it, so live data can be managed as easily as backups. UFCVM went to town. Within the last six months, it has filled 5TB of the SAN's 7TB capacity with live data. It uses 500GB for nearline backup space, but backups also are dumped immediately to tape.

Sharp says she loves the hardware independence the appliance enables. For instance, although the SAN uses iSCSI, "I could put traditional SCSI volumes out there, too. It doesn't matter what hardware I put behind the SVM appliance, or what operating system I put in front of it," she says. When the college buys servers, all storage is left to the SAN.

With a few clicks from the SVM's management screen, Sharp allocates the desired amount of storage, "and, boom, it shows up in the device." It doesn't matter what that device is. During the testing phase her team even provisioned a laptop: "We did it for grins. We gave a laptop over a wireless connection a terabyte hard drive." But Sharp says giving clients direct SAN access is not going to happen. For security and stability, the SVM switch is on its own segregated link to the servers.

Virtualized storage offers college users other never-before-possible options, too. The SVM device lets a snapshot of live data be placed on a server easily; that gives developers a copy of a real database for testing purposes.

On Sharp's SAN project wish list, when budgets allow, is building a second, mirrored SAN for business continuity. SVM has a mirroring module that would make the implementation of a dual-failover SAN a fairly painless process, she says.

In the meantime, UFCVM is working on server clustering to speed the performance of the entire server and storage infrastructure. It has been using an informal cluster by hooking its three Microsoft servers into the SAN via Microsoft's Distributed File System (DFS) root -- making the Microsoft software act "as the traffic cop," Sharp says.

By the end of June, she expects to have implemented Microsoft's clustering services, supported by Server 2003. Among other benefits, this will give the SAN higher availability than DFS root does.

Painless, flexible, inexpensive: What's not to love about today's New Data Center virtualized storage?

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