Nikon Uses LeftHand

Nikon Europe bought a gross capacity of 54 Terabytes of storage capacity for its fully mirrored campus SAN environment

October 17, 2007

5 Min Read
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LONDON and LIJNDEN, The Netherlands -- As a world leader in photography and imagine processing, Nikon's capacity for storing information, both visual and numerical, grows exponentially. Like the most market leaders, Nikon Europe will create and process terabytes of information on customers, orders and markets which need to be shared across all of its offices across Europe.

Nikon Europe's IT Operations Manager Fred van Smaalen has managed this challenge by centralizing solutions. About 10 remote offices are using this concept; other remote offices will be migrated in the future as well. Core applications which run centrally are Microsoft Exchange, a Spare Part Management System, E-room and Documentum.

Because of the use of laptops and the requirement to use Office applications and large data files locally, the trend towards centralization means that even though information may be stored in each local office, it is all replicated to one central location, namely Nikon Europe's HQ which is located near Amsterdam in The Netherlands. Operations Manager Fred van Smaalen controls this process with some basic tools that record every incremental change made by each user so seamlessly that they remain oblivious to the constant backing up of their data as they work.

By using equipment with integrated functionality like routing, fire walling, VPN, PoE switching and IPT, Fred van Smaalen has honed the management of the company IT infrastructure to a fine art. Each office has only one or two appliances, in which all the management intelligence is integrated, leaving little room for error. Management of the entire IT and communications infrastructure is run with economy of effort and maximum efficiency from his offices.

Like all companies, Nikon Europe faces the challenge of managing the exponential growth in the size, variety and volume of data files. Van Smaalen set out to achieve the same management efficiencies Nikon enjoys with its communications infrastructure.Until recently, a Fiber Channel SAN has managed the storage requirements of the company faultlessly. However, the maximum capacity was reached and there were no expansion possibilities, there was lack of a standard management tool, operational expenses increased and Nikon became more and more dependent on the vendor for operational support because of the specialized knowledge Nikon did not have. Adding capacity to the system was not a cost effective option, which became a problem as the demand for storage capacity continued to grow. Van Smaalen needed to find a system that could provide the two precious qualities any storage environment needs: flexibility and scalability.

Nikon Europe's Operations Manager consulted with its trusted technology supplier, AXIANS, on its future storage strategy. Six years ago AXIANS had recognized a Fiber Channel SAN as the best solution for their requirements. During this period, new, better and simpler technologies evolved.

Much had changed since the Fiber Channel SAN was installed, according to Eelco Huisinga, Account Manager within AXIANS. Six years ago, the best infrastructure was undoubtedly offered by fiber channel. These days, however, the use of Internet Protocol (IP) in storage has evolved so much that iSCSI offers a mature, robust and reliable alternative. It also offers obvious cost advantages.

As an integrator with inside knowledge of a range of leading technology vendors, AXIANS was best placed to provide an unbiased overview of the storage market. Other well established brands in this field were considered as an option. In addition van Smaalen was given a presentation on a new innovator in this space, LeftHand Networks.

Van Smaalen admits he wasn't completely sold on LeftHand Networks, first time around. "At first I didn't think they provided what we wanted," he says, "but then they showed their mettle. They found out what we needed, went away and tailored their presentation around meeting our needs."Flexibility is a vital quality in any management system that needs to cope with constantly changing demands. Further evidence of the flexibility of LHN was revealed when it emerged that LeftHand Networks software is entirely independent of hardware. Van Smaalen says he was particularly impressed by the quality and simplicity and decided to investigate the system further.

Hardware independence and scalability are vital qualities in any system where cost management is an imperative. Though the original Storage Servers in the FC SAN were state of the art when first installed, they didn't offer the capacity to expand. Operational expenses increased as the cost of maintenance rose exponentially. Having experienced this, Van Smaalen was intent on finding a system adapts to any changing circumstances in the environments, and allows additions to be made to the system painlessly.

More proof of LeftHand Networks' cost-busting flexibility comes in its approach to providing services. Storage managers will need to take snapshots of their network these days, and the majority will need the option to restore their network, to the state it was at any given time. Many vendors exploit this need, by charging their clients for the extra module needed for this restoration. "The great advantage of dealing with LeftHand Networks is that there are no hidden costs," says Van Smaalen.

Expansion of this state of the art, fully functioned IP infrastructure promises to be cost effective to manage too. Installation and configuration of new hardware can be achieved in one morning, testifies Van Smaalen. Data partitions are the work of moments, thanks to the easy to use GUI (graphical user interface) that has proved another time saving godsend to the busy manager. "Previously I had to rely on specialists from the vendor to make changes. Now I can make them myself," says Van Smaalen.

Network RAID for the partitions enables Nikon Europe to store all data twice on the network. So if a storage node goes down, the user doesn't notice. When the node comes back up again, parity is restored.Nikon bought a gross capacity of 54 TeraBytes of storage capacity for its fully mirrored campus SAN environment. Now its European HQ has a nett capacity of 15 terabytes TeraByte, its disaster recovery site also has a 15 TeraByte capacity.

LeftHand Networks has provided a complement to existing applications and control systems. It interfaces smoothly, for example, with CommVault's Simpana Data Management application, which is used to back up protected Microsoft clusters.

Nikon Europe is primarily a Microsoft site, and server virtualization is not being considered for the immediate future. However, LeftHand Networks does cater to that need should it ever arise, with its Virtual SAN appliance.

"Flexibility, scalability and availability runs through the whole product set at lower capital and operational expenses," enthuses Fred van Smaalen, "It's simple and yet incredibly powerful. Like all great engineering."

LeftHand Networks Inc.0

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