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FirstMerit Bank

While storage virtualization may not be catching on as fast as many users and vendors had hoped, some shops find it worthwhile. (See Virtually Nowhere.) One of these, FirstMerit Bank of Akron, Ohio, runs its online service with a well-virtualized SAN and has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars since it went live.

FirstMerit Bank senior network analyst Dave Samic says hes taking advantage of storage and server virtualization, and he’s eager to add application virtualization to the mix. (See Tacit, Softricity Extend Apps.) The way he sees it, his SAN is the key to offering his customers online banking and virtualization is the key to keeping the SAN going.

“Our Internet banking is all in the SAN,” Samic says. “Hundreds of thousands of customers are using our Internet banking site and doing over a million transactions every month. We can't afford to lose our link to that site.”

FirstMerit’s online accounts have grown around 15 percent since late 2004, when the bank installed an IBM DS4400 midrange SAN system to replace direct-attached storage. Its storage capacity has grown from 2 Tbytes to 18 Tbytes over that time to keep up. Yet without IBM’s SAN Volume Contoller (SVC) to virtualize storage and VMware to virtualize servers, keeping up with the growth would have been difficult.

"The issue is throughput on the SAN,” Samic explains. “People build SANs thinking, 'This is a magical device that will cure all our problems.' With Fibre Channel, you will achieve a good 2 Gbit/s, but on the back end you still have bottlenecks."

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