Wireless 411 Firm Calls for Backup

How cell directory provider is coping with large databases, multiple sites, and security UPDATED 8/18 5PM

August 18, 2005

3 Min Read
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Web-based directory assistance information provider Qsent Corp. is beefing up its storage infrastructure to prepare for a wireless 411 phone service that could add hundreds of millions of names to its database. In doing so, it's finding the need to juggle storage across multiple sites and tiers, while bolstering security.

Last September, wireless carriers Alltel Corp. (NYSE: AT), Cingular Wireless LLC, Nextel Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: NXTL), Sprint PCS, and T-Mobile USA selected QSent to create and manage a 411 directory service for cell phone numbers. The directory should be online by 2006.

Cell phone customers have to opt in, so Qsent has no way of knowing how many of the 190-million-plus U.S. cell numbers will go in its directory. Those who do will join Qsents current database of more than 100 million records.

On top of its 411 work, Portland, Ore.-based Qsent sells a Web-based directory information listing service that lets merchants enter a phone number and get back a name and address to verify orders.

With all the data it needs to store, Qsent has been upgrading its SAN and NAS systems across two data centers in Oregon and Illinois. “And we’re just about maxed out,” says Derek Olsen, Qsent’s manager of UNIX administration.Oslen says Qsent is looking to move more of its data from SANs to NAS in order to make it easier to manage and reduce costs. Moving to NAS will reduce the number of Fibre Channel switches and HBAs, as well as logical unit numbers (LUNs) they require.

"We’re trying to move some of the data we have on SANs to NAS to eliminate the amount of storage and devices we have to manage,” he says. “We’ll still use SANs for different data sets, such as our Sarbanes Oxley info, and we’ll have our large backend data bases on bigger SANs.”

The firm is now running EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) Clariion SAN systems, EMC Celerra and Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) NAS boxes, and Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) (NYSE: STK) LTO-3 tape libraries. The total capacity 5s 44 Tbytes.

“We have a couple of projects in the pipeline with very large data requirements, in different phases from R&D all the way through the production stage,” Olsen says. “For most of these projects, file systems are 2 TBytes, and we have to have the files in different places, such as development, testing, and QA.”

Security is also a major concern for a company that stores millions of customer records. Keeping those records from prying eyes increases Qsent’s storage requirements. “That’s part of the reason we have multiple separate storage systems in different physical locations,” Olsen says. “We don’t want to mix non-production data that only certain people have access to with development and test areas.”Qsent uses NeoScale Systems Inc. CryptoStor appliances for data stored on tape libraries. “We backup to disk and tape. Data backed up to tape is encrypted, and if we send any tapes offsite to Iron Mountain or anybody else and they get misplaced, the only impact will be to us. Nobody’s information will be out there.”

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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