4-Gig's About Consolidation, Say Users

SNW panel sees doubling the server connections as the key value proposition UPDATED 4/7 4:45 PM

April 5, 2006

3 Min Read
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SAN DIEGO -- Storage Networking World -- The ability to consolidate servers is the major benefit of 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel equipment today, according to a panel of users that took place here Tuesday evening.

Three panelists said you don't need sophisticated new SANs to take advantage of 4-Gbit/s FC. While end-to-end 4-Gbit/s SANs are just starting to show up, the increased bandwidth between host and storage already supplies enough benefits to make it worthwhile for them.

"The whole value proposition behind Fibre Channel SANs is you have more servers sharing the same amount of storage," said the panel moderator, Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting. "With 4-Gig, you double the number of servers you can consolidate with the same amount of ports."

Users on the panel agreed. Qualcomm IT engineer Rob Mallory said he switched to 4-Gbit/s HBAs last year to more efficiently replicate more than 60 million files and 8 Tbytes of data between engineering teams in the wireless communications company's San Diego and India locations.

"The main driver for 4-Gig was increased IOPS [I/O operations per second] and low latency," Mallory said. "We designed a staging file server and distributed it in parallel to sites that were in time zones 12 hours away. We went to 4-Gig to give ourselves some headroom."Qualcomm installed six 4-Gbit/s Emulex and QLogic HBAs on Sun servers connected to Network Appliance storage to reduce the replication time from 42 hours to less than 12 hours. "An engineer in India doesn't want to wait 42 hours for a file from an engineer here," Mallory noted. "Our other option was the FedEx man."

Zachariah Mully, systems and network director for email news services firm SmartBrief, installed 4-Gbit/s HBAs as part of a setup needed to send 950,000 emails between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily.

Mully had less than $13,000 to spend on a storage upgrade last year after his old system crashed because of power failures. "We had two catastrophic hardware failures," he said. "We no longer trusted our equipment."

Because the old system also suffered from bus saturation” that caused performance bottlenecks, SmartBrief installed LSI Logic dual-port, 4-Gbit/s HBAs when upgrading from a SCSI system to a Fibre Channel RAID box. Mully said the system is now reliable enough to handle the firm's content management system without keeping him up at night. "We could be close to being profitable, and I didn't want to be the one who blows it," he says.

Mike Magaldi, director of technology for St. Mary and All Angels School in Aliso Viejo, Calif., upgraded to QLogic 4-Gbit/s HBAs last year as part of a system overhaul needed to help students render video in a video production lab. The 850-student school has 2 Tbytes of active data on its SAN.Magaldi installed 4-Gbit/s HBAs on five IBM BladeCenter servers to facilitate disk-to-disk-to-tape backup on Overland REO disk and NEO tape systems. The extra bandwidth came in handy after his students brought his WiFi network down during a rendering.

"We had seventh and eighth graders doing five-minute videos as part of a project," he said. "The were rendering 40 or 50 videos simultaneously over my wireless LAN. They lost a lot of files, and that's why it became important for backups. Our 4-Gig HBAs enabled that."

The panel members agreed that compatibility with other equipment is crucial in their 4-Gbit/s implementations, and they have experienced no problems there. "Incompatibility issues are non-existent with [our] 4-Gig," Mallory observed. "It's not like the 1-Gig days and FCAL."

Mully says he feared the worst for his first move to Fibre Channel: "I had no Fibre Channel experience, and all my buddies had horror stories with Fibre Channel. But it was easy. We installed our system in eight hours and it worked really well."

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and SwitchOrganizations mentioned in this article:

  • Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • LSI Logic Corp. (NYSE: LSI)

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Overland Storage Inc. (Nasdaq: OVRL)

  • Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)

  • QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc.

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