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Safeway's Safe Way to Virtualized Storage

Like many companies, the Safeway Insurance Company in the Chicago suburb of Westmont, Ill., was faced with conflicting requirements. On one hand, the company needed to dramatically improve the performance of its database storage infrastructure. On the other, as a financial services company, Safeway had to be responsible in managing its cost. Fortunately for Mike Leather, the company's network services manager, the answer wasn't hard to find.

"We started looking for a primary business database for a higher performance solution," Leather says. "Direct-attached storage wasn't going to provide acceptable performance." Leather and his team started looking for a SAN, but cost quickly became a factor. "We didn't want to spend the money on a high-end Fibre Channel solution, so we came to the decision that iSCSI was the solution. We started off with a need for higher performance for our databases and to have them be more scalable and flexible. It quickly evolved into everything from file storage, archiving, to replication and snapshotting. One unit has expanded to an eight-unit group."

Safeway decided to go with a Dell EqualLogic PS array. According to Eric Schott, Dell's director of product management for the Dell EqualLogic product line, a major attraction to the array is its simplicity. "You kind of buy them like refrigerators," he says. "Small, medium, or large. When you need to add a unit, they join together to become one, and load balance themselves."

Schott said that some other designs require customers buy controllers and shelves of disks. "There's a fixed size growth path. But then you get into the twins and triplets problem, so the management load doubles or triples."

Management is relatively simple because management is part of the basic package, Schott says, so customers don't have to add it as a separate item when they buy a storage system. He noted that Dell issues upgrades automatically, and that the standard management software handles the entire virtualized storage system.

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