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Case Study: Storehouse Gets Good Evaluation

Oregon's Department of Consumer and Business Services finally got its SAN. But getting it was a complicated process that took more than a little financial risk on the part of a solution provider willing to go the extra mile to make evaluation units available with no guarantee of an order.

The department had been running its growing Sybase database on Sun Microsystems servers with internal storage. However, the amount of data was on the verge of exceeding the available internal capacity, said George Lyon, senior Unix administrator for the Salem, Ore.-based organization.

Therefore, last June, the department decided to purchase an inexpensive yet expandable and reliable external Fibre Channel array. Research led Lyon and his team to StoreHouse Technologies, an El Cajon, Calif.-based solution provider that proposed a JBOD (just a bunch of disks, or non-RAID) array from Carlsbad, Calif.-based nStor.

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StoreHouse President Darryl Riddlespurger went the extra mile to seal a deal with an Oregon state agency.

However as a state agency, the department was required to put any purchase over $5,000 out to bid. Plus the department required an evaluation unit because it does most installations by itself, Lyon said.

StoreHouse arranged for nStor to deliver and install an evaluation array, which made the solution provider a good potential partner for the department even if it did not guarantee a sale. "Once it passed our evaluation, we decided to bid the project using the nStor array as a target," Lyon said. "I run into a lot of reluctance from vendors to send eval units. Darryl [Riddlespurger, StoreHouse's president] was very open to bringing one in."

StoreHouse was also able to register the deal with nStor, which helped it win the bidding last June.

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ANATOMY OF A SOLUTION

In August, the department's staff added four Fibre Channel RAID controllers for redundancy. "They were looking at a SAN for the future," Riddlespurger said. "I'm not sure if it was for budgetary reasons, but they were going at it by pieces. It would have been less expensive if bought all at once."

The next piece came soon thereafter. The department had applications running on a Wang minicomputer since the 1980s, but when Wang was acquired by Netherlands-based vendor Getronics, the department received notification that support for its computer would end within four years.

The department was able to find outside assistance to help it migrate the Wang applications to an Oracle database on Linux, and decided to add five Linux servers and use the nStor array for clustering. However the array had only four ports, and the additional servers could only be accommodated with a SAN switch. Lyon's team asked nStor about a switch in October and was told the safest path would be to find one that matched the host bus adapter vendor, which in this case was QLogic.

QLogic had just introduced its new 5200 switch with 16 Fibre Channel ports and 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports priced at about $350 per port, compared with competing products averaging $700 to $1,100 per port. However, the QLogic switch had not been released yet.

Lyon once again turned to StoreHouse to procure evaluation units from both QLogic and Brocade Communications. Brocade would not supply a demo unit, but QLogic responded positively.

However, Oregon state employees are not allowed to take responsibility for evaluation units. "So I took responsibility for it," Riddlespurger said. "I was on the hook if anything went wrong."

Fortunately for both, the switch worked just fine. Lyon bid the switch out and continues to turn to StoreHouse for his storage needs.

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