Eagle County, Colorado

County IT Director installs IP SAN from LeftHand Networks

March 24, 2004

3 Min Read
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Eagle County in Colorado brings out the bold in people. Its a place where daredevils enjoy skiing, rock climbing, maintain biking, whitewater rafting, running IP SANs, stuff like that.

Just kidding about IP SANs. Well, maybe. Some say storage administrators would rather ski straight down the highest Vail mountain without a single turn than use an IP SAN (see Emulex Slaps iSCSI). But Eagle County IT Director John DeNardo says his IP SAN from LeftHand Networks Inc. is nothing to be afraid of.

DeNardo found the network he inherited a year ago a lot more scary: a complete DAS set up with ALR Pentium Pro 200s and a suite of really old-fashioned office applications, including Windows 95, Novell 4.11, GroupWise 5.5, Corel Office... Well, you get the picture. By DeNardo's reckoning, it amounted to a dangerous way to run a network that stores property assessments, tax records, municipal planning documents, and voting registration. Not to mention records at the Justice Building in Eagle where Kobe Bryant is standing trial.

DeNardo’s bosses wanted 24-by-7 uptime and solid disaster recovery. But they were far from it: Before he got there, disaster recovery was handled by eight Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) DAT tape drives. “They’d back up to tape, then put in it the bank and hope they could restore from it,” DeNardo says. “And quite often, they couldn’t.”

DeNardo hired Siemens Business Services to plan a storage networking system. Working with Siemens, he moved Eagle County to Windows 2000 on HP servers, with Microsoft Exchange and Office XP on 270 Pentium 4 Dell desktops spread across 27 departments.With all that Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) influence, DeNardo thought an iSCSI system was a good idea, and he liked what he'd heard about LeftHand. Siemens thought he was crazy.

“They were negative on LeftHand stuff,” DeNardo says. “They said it was too new. But we couldn’t afford EMC or HP. [Those vendors] wanted us to use DAS for databases and NAS for file storage. We didn’t want to put databases and file servers on different systems. We wanted one system.”

DeNardo dismissed Siemens and installed LeftHand. “My message is: Don’t listen to the big boys, they’re used to doing things one way.”

DeNardo says he got the SAN set up in less than a day. His system has 5 TBytes of primary storage in the main county site in Eagle and 5 TBytes in a disaster recovery site seven miles away in Gypsum. The SAN uses Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) switches.

Another big piece of the disaster recovery process is PowerQuest Inc. V2i Protector software. V2i takes snapshots of the servers and stores them on the SAN. Data is replicated from the remote sites to the main facility, and from there to the DR site. For another line of defense, the county uses a Qualstar Corp. (Nasdaq: QBAK) 9-TByte tape library.DeNardo knows the disaster recovery works, because he twice had to restore data since installing the SAN last June. And what were the disasters that made this necessary? One was that natural disaster known as human error during routine maintenance. “I call it personal IT human error,” DeNardo says. “But we saved ourselves. We can go to the disaster recovery site and re-image everything.”

The network makeover cost Eagle County around $1.1 million – less than the $1.4 budget DeNardo was working under. He says he still has a few more tweaks to make, such as adding a Gigabit Ethernet circuit to the DR site to enable full synchronous DR replication. He’s also looking to upgrade to an eight-node Exchange cluster with LeftHand’s SAN/iQ software for high availability.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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