Case Study: Data Replication Goes Wireless

But for Steinbach Credit Union, based in Steinbach, Manitoba, the choice lay between installing what is being billed as the world's first wireless data-replication system or facing the high monthly cost of lighting up some local dark fiber.

And for the solution provider that helped Steinbach make that decision, Logicorp, the deployment may open up a new line of business.


The solution featured Nishan 4300 and 3300 IP switches.

Steinbach Credit has existed for more than 60 years with one office and has more than 53,000 members and assets in excess of $932 million. The credit union decided to open its first branch office 30 miles away in Winnipeg, Manitoba, both to accommodate member needs and to implement a disaster-recovery plan, said Lloyd Dueck, IT manager at Steinbach Credit.

For data replication, Dueck turned to XIOtech, Eden Prairie, Minn., which in 2001 set up the credit union with its first SAN based on the vendor's Magnitude array. XIOtech in turn put Dueck in contact with Logicorp, an Edmonton, Alberta-based solution provider, which took on the task of selling and implementing a second Magnitude in the new branch office.

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Logicorp, at that time XIOtech's only premier solution provider in western Canada, had three XIOtech-certified engineers on staff, said Roy Abramson, business solution consultant for Logicorp.

Despite the proximity of the two offices, the credit union faced sticker shock when it came to connecting the two Magnitude arrays.

"I first looked at wired solutions," Dueck said. "The telcos didn't have anything for us. And fiber,they wanted $45,000 for a 1-Gbyte-per-second [array] each month, or $32,000 for a half-Gbyte."

So Dueck considered bridging the SANs over IP networks. He called XIOtech to ask about one of its technology partners: Nishan, a developer of switches that convert Fibre Channel to IP and back. The final vendor to become involved in the solution was Western Multiplexer, a developer of wireless networks that in October was purchased by Proxim of Sunnyvale, Calif. The idea: Replicate the data over a wireless IP network.

Because the concept was new to everyone, Nishan handled its own portion of the installation itself, said Corbett Enders, senior network analyst at Logicorp. "It was in their best interest to make sure there was no flaw, so they sent out their own engineer," he said.

In the meantime, Logicorp prepped the new Magnitude array so it would be ready in the Winnipeg office. Before going live over the wireless network, Logicorp tested both arrays in the Steinbach office connected through an IP network using the Nishan switches. When it was ready, Dueck took the new array, drove it to Winnipeg, and connected it to the Nishan switch. "Everything worked fine," he said.


The customer installed the XIOtech Magnitude array.

Abramson said Logicorp doesn't encourage customers to install Magnitude arrays but made an exception in this instance. "In the Steinbach case, they have had a Magnitude for two years and have one or two certified XIOtech engineers on staff."

With the array in place, Steinbach had a complete disaster-recovery and data-replication system running at 100 Mbits per second along with one additional perk: enough bandwidth to run all the credit union's telecom at no extra fee, Dueck said. "Everybody's happy except the local phone company," he said.

For its part, the deal gave Logicorp a chance to work with Nishan's IP switches, which the solution provider is currently proposing for a few other deals, Abramson said. "If we're successful in the other Nishan deals, we'll get our people certified, and Nishan will then let us handle them," he said.

Implementation of the wireless data-replication solution has brought Dueck minor celebrity status. Last month, he was a guest speaker for the Credit Union Executive Society in Las Vegas, where he talked about the solution. "If I would have known we were the first in the world to do wireless data replication, I would have had second thoughts," he said. "I still pinch myself when I think our little credit union should be the first."


>> COMPANY: Logicorp, Edmonton, Alberta
>> FOCUS: Wireless data replication
>> PROBLEM & SOLUTION: Steinbach Credit needed to replicate data to its new branch office but found wired SAN connectivity too expensive. The company turned to wireless for the answer.
>> PRODUCTS & SERVICES USED: XIOtech Magnitude arrays, Nishan 4300 and 3300 IP storage switches, Proxim wireless bridges, Cisco switches >> LESSONS LEARNED:
> Be prepared to let the customer take a hands-on role when appropriate.
> Committing to key technology partners could win a solution provider important new leads in emerging solution areas.
> By working with a new vendor closely on initial implementations, a solution provider can test whether that vendor is a suitable partner for the future.