California Gets SAN Energy

Xcel builds SAN to speed up electricity and gas trading

August 1, 2001

3 Min Read
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Could SAN technology be used to help Californias energy crisis? Xcel Energy Markets, the largest unit of Xcel Energy Corp., thinks so.

The company has flicked the switch on a new storage area network, built to house and manage its nationwide, wholesale natural gas and electricity trading business.

“California is buying from Xcel daily now,” says Tim Tutag, account executive at Hitachi Data Systems, which is supplying Xcel with its Freedom Storage Lightning 9900 system. McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDT) provided its ED 5000 Director switches for the network, and several unnamed software companies were also involved in building the SAN (see Hitachi, McData Team Up).

The contract is worth “several million dollars,” says Tutag. Those moneys "kit out just one data center in Denver,” he adds. Xcel has many other centers in Colorado and Minnesota, which he hopes will be added to the contract in time.

The Xcel Energy Markets team must be able to react to market conditions minute by minute during the trading day and dispatch energy to customers and trading partners around the clock. These transactions, as well as the need to store lengthy contracts, make its business extremely data intensive and underpinned its decision to build a SAN, it says.Matthew Zafuto, director of Information Systems and Technology for Xcel's Energy Markets unit, led the SAN selection and implementation teams. In the past year, he has seen an exponential increase in the storage capacity needed to support trading operations and is currently deploying about 1.2 terabytes. He expects that capacity easily to triple by the end of the year and perhaps to grow much more than that.

“The core business problem we're trying to solve is to put in place a data storage infrastructure that will enable us to maintain an exponential growth rate,” he says. “The system has to allow us to add storage capacity on a vast scale, and it also has to be highly reliable in order to assure access to the data.”

Xcel Energy concluded that its existing infrastructure, which was based on multiple servers with directly attached storage, would not allow the company to scale its storage capacity easily and economically. Zafuto's team didn't want to rely on “throwing more servers at the problem" in order to gain storage capacity whenever they wanted to install new applications or accommodate more users.

“The internal architecture of the HDS 9900 was vastly superior to the others we evaluated," says Zafuto. (Unfortunately, he declined to name the other products he evaluated). “It can scale up to 37 terabytes in a single system without experiencing any deterioration in performance.”

Whether California lights up on the news has yet to be established, but this is another example of a large company binning its old direct-attached storage and embarking on the new wave of network-based storage systems (see SAN to Trim Healthcare Provider's Costs).— Jo Maitland, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Movers and shakers from more than 100 companies – including Hitachi Data Systems – will be speaking at StorageNet, Byte and Switch’s annualconference, being held in New York City, October 2-5, 2001. Check it out at StorageNet2001

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