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Applied Discovery Deploys 8-Gig FC to Handle Data Boom

For Applied Discovery, which helps corporations prepare for trials by cataloguing their electronic data, business has been very good lately. The company has benefited from recent regulations, such as the U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, that force companies to catalogue their corporate information and then maintain it for several years. The growth also meant that the company was straining its IT infrastructure, a situation that led to the building of a new data center and the adoption of an emerging high-speed network interface, 8-Gbit/s Fibre Channel.

Applied Discovery, which has approximately 200 employees, was founded in 1998; it is now a division of LexisNexis, a workflow solutions provider. Large law firms and legal teams in Fortune 500 companies use Applied Discovery's e-discovery products and services to pull out relevant data from all of their corporate information whenever legal issues arise. For instance, the company will take all of a client's emails, whittle them down to those relevant to a case, and deliver them to the customer.

Business had been booming, but that good fortune created new challenges for the company. "The volume of data that companies have to look through grew from hundreds of gigabytes a few years ago to 3 terabytes to 4 terabytes now," says Keith E. Moore, director of technology services at Applied Discovery. As a result, the company needed additional computing and storage capacity as well as more flexibility in how it allocated computing resources.

In response, the information services company opened a new data center at the end of 2007. It now has 1,000 servers, largely HP and Sun systems, broken into data management systems, index engines, and raw processing systems. The legal service company's storage area network has more than 1 PB of information.

As it was moving into its new data center, Applied Discovery spent a few months reviewing its traffic patterns and trying to pinpoint the source of its network or system bottlenecks. "The Fibre Channel links in our data center were becoming a pressure point," says Moore. Hundreds of the company's servers were connecting to network switches sitting in front of its storage systems, and the volume of data moving among the switches, servers, and storage systems would occasionally overload the Fibre Channel connections, which had been in use for about half a dozen years.

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