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Business School Learns Storage Virtualization Lessons

Dan Lewis knew that his SAN's days were numbered. The EVA 3000 system from Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) was five years old. Support was getting costly, performance wasn't meeting his needs, and he knew the problem would only get worse as demand for storage began to grow. But Lewis, manager of network services for the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business in Los Angeles, also knew that he had to meet more needs than just the demand for storage.

"We're very much about virtualization," Lewis says. "We're very aware of budget concerns. The IT group at the Marshall School of Business tries to do things that benefit the entire campus and use the latest technology." Lewis says storage virtualization lets him control costs because he can optimize the use of resources and get more performance with less money. In addition, he could make all of that happen in a smaller space with lower demands for power and cooling.

Storage has always been a significant issue at the business school. "About eight years ago we had 30 servers," says Lewis, adding that the data center grew to 90 servers five years ago. "The expense of, not just power and cooling, but hardware refresh was daunting. We went to HP's EVA 3000 line of SANs. And we went back down to about 35 servers."

But that was five years ago. "We needed to replace our aging EVA 3000 because it was at the end of its life for support and at the limits of capacity and performance." He considered going back to HP for a new system, but then learned about some storage systems from Xiotech Corp. being used in other departments on campus. His colleagues were extremely satisfied with those systems and gave them rave reviews.

Xiotech made a powerful case, Lewis says. First, the pricing was competitive: The Emprise 7000 cost about $140,000 for 7 TBytes of storage. And there also were potential cost savings from virtualization. "They started talking to us about the Emprise 7000 and the technology behind it." Lewis liked the idea of using virtualization as an abstraction layer that would let him get away from focusing on specific hardware products. And, he notes, the improved performance also made a huge difference.

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