Case Study: Resellers Design Powerful Storage Solution For AFCCC

The Air Force Combat Climatology Center (AFCCC) found that combination in two solution providers who collaborated with low-cost technology capable of handling that data input as it grows to an expected 20 Gbytes a day over the next five years.

Solutions from several suppliers were evaluated starting in February, including a SAN from Intelligent Decisions, a Chantilly, Va.-based solution provider, and an InfiniBand solution from ProMicro, a Poway, Calif.-based high-performance computing provider.


The Air Force Combat Climatology Center chose to use an InfiniBand solution from Intelligent Decisions and ProMicro, capable of storing up to 20 Gbytes a day of weather data.

AFCCC personnel were not familiar with InfiniBand, and they were concerned with the newness of the technology, said Keith Schoultz, technical systems lead at AFCCC. "They had no compelling reason to move to InfiniBand before," he said. "InfiniBand at 1X speed is the same as Gigabit Ethernet. But with the latest 4X technology, it becomes exciting, and costs much less than 10-Gbit Ethernet."

After deciding on an InfiniBand storage network switch from Mountain View, Calif.-based Topspin Communications, as suggested by ProMicro, the AFCCC modified its request for proposals (RFP) to incorporate the new technology. At that point, Bob Crawford, contract manager for Intelligent Decisions, contacted ProMicro.

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Intelligent Decisions has security clearance and a variety of government

contracts, including the Scientific Engineering Workstation Procurement (SEWP) contract required for this case, Crawford said. ProMicro, on the other hand, had Topspin products, but no government experience. The two decided to work together.

The AFCCC's data sits in an Oracle9i RAC database. Intelligent Decisions and ProMicro plan to consolidate the database from four legacy servers to a cluster of six two-way Linux servers built by ProMicro running Red Hat Advanced Server 2.1. A Topspin 360 Server Switch with Fibre Channel modules connects the six servers with a Texas Memory Systems RamSan 220 solid-state storage device, Schoultz said.

The 360 also connects the cluster to two Fibre Channel switches from Brocade Communications, which are in turn connected to storage arrays from an anonymous vendor, Schoultz said. The project is still in its early stages, and is expected to be finished by next August.

"What's unique is, we've put Oracle on an InfiniBand network and increased throughput by putting the Oracle hot tables on the solid-state storage device," Schoultz said. "That's because the I/O needs to become heavier when recording the transaction than for the actual transaction itself."

Getting the AFCCC to try an InfiniBand solution was difficult, as the technology is relatively new, Schoultz said. Only after government-experienced Intelligent Decisions guaranteed it would work did the AFCCC decide to try it. "Once they saw it would work, those against it became supporters."

Based on their initial experience with InfiniBand, both Intelligent Decisions and the AFCCC expect to do more with the technology.

Terri Pond, director of marketing at Intelligent Decisions, said the AFCCC project is looking like the kind of success story that could interest other parts of the government. "On behalf of our clients, we try to put together the best solutions based on our history," she said.

Schoultz said the AFCCC plans to write a white paper on how to build an InfiniBand network. "The AFCCC is supported by U.S. taxpayers' tax dollars," he said. "After we blaze the trail, we want to give back to the community."

%95 COMPANY: Intelligent Decisions, Chantilly, Va.; ProMicro, Poway, Calif.
%95 PROBLEM & %95 SOLUTION: The AFCCC wanted to implement a new SAN to handle the growing collection of daily climate data, settling on the InfiniBand solution proposed by ProMicro and Intelligent Decisions.
%95 PRODUCTS & SERVICES USED: Oracle9i RAC database running on a cluster of six two-way Linux servers connected with a Texas Memory Systems RamSan 220 solid-state storage device via a Topspin 360 InfiniBand switch.

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