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IP SAN Goes to Yale

Storage vendors like to lump customers into tidy groups by size or vertical market, but many organizations dont fit into prefigured categories.

Take the Yale School of Architecture for example. It's part of a large organization, but with about 300 students, staff, and faculty, it's not quite a department. It also has the rapidly growing storage needs of an architecture or engineering firm -- without the budget.

That left senior systems administrator Robert Liston, the sole manager of the architecture school's storage, to figure things out from the ground up when he moved from direct attached storage in 2003. Liston ended up with about 10 Tbytes of LeftHand Networks IP SANs running Windows Server 2003 R2, and he put VMware's VMotion to good use to complete his storage consolidation.

Here's how it happened. At first, Liston's preferences were for a NAS or Fibre Channel SAN. Despite his school's working with lots of large files for CAD and other specialized applications, Liston had to dismiss NAS because of the university's IT setup.

"NAS wasn't going to meet our needs," he says. "We wanted to make sure security would be tight. The easiest way to do that was to secure our servers at the block level, not at the file level. Any volume we mounted through iSCSI could be directly formatted to NTFS (Windows NT file system) and we could apply our security. We could also enable compression right in NTFS. You can't do that at the file level, it has to be the block level. It was also easy to use relatively old software [in his case IBM Tivoli Storage Manager] to back up everything."

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