Connectivity Expertise Saves Tape Library Installation
An integrator spares Internet company an implementation nightmare and saves a $165 million installation by testing solutions in its own storage lab.
If the Internet has been the cause of the data explosion, which has in turn created storage headaches for just about every business, Web-based companies must have the biggest headaches of all. Case in point is a major domain registration Web site that desperately needed to consolidate its data storage in one of its data centers. Its distributed tape library system required heavy maintenance, and the company was going to need more capacity for a special project involving terabyte-sized database files.
Though large end users often like to deal directly with vendors, StorageTek (Louisville, CO), a manufacturer of storage technology, called in integrator Alliance Technology Group (Hanover, MD) when its domain registration customer needed a tape. Even though Alliance Technology group was ranked in the top three for volume of sales in its category, it wasn't a sure sell - the customer also approached IBM and Quantum|ATL.
Turn To Vendors To Help Solve Compatibility Issues
"We performed a maintenance cost estimate to consolidate the data center's tape maintenance and drives," said Patrick Edwards, VP of sales for Alliance Technology Group. The customer wanted a library that would use newer LTO (linear tape open) drives, but that could also accommodate the old DLT (digital linear tape) drives that the customer needed to keep. The StorageTek L700, an automated robotic library, allows "mixed media" within the same library frame, so that both the LTO and the older DLT 7000 tape drives could be used.
Tape libraries have many slots and a robotic arm that picks the tapes out of the slots. The robotic arm inserts the tapes into the library's drives. Often a library requires that all the drives be of the same type, but that is not the case with the StorageTek L700. This feature protects customers' investments, because if they want to change tape formats, they can just replace the drives rather than the entire library.
As simple as the installation may sound thus far, the installation did not go smoothly at first. The customer did not realize that the host server that the tape library and drives needed to connect to required the older DLT7000s to run at a different voltage than what the host controller required. Rather than sending the library back, Edwards found a solution. "We met with the host manufacturer," he said, "and replicated the solution in our lab."
Integrator's In-House Lab Used To Avoid Installation Problems
Alliance Technology Group calls its lab the Alliance iLab, where it runs a SAN with multiple platforms, varied-sized tape libraries, different tape drive technologies, disk configurations, and several different software packages. "We were able to figure out how to convert the voltage from HVD (high voltage differential) in the drives to LVD (low voltage differential) in the server until the customer is ready to upgrade its platform to host an HVD. We worked with a company that manufactures converters and acquired one converter for each drive. This way we could test the solution and successfully complete the installation. The best outcome was that there was no loss in performance at all."
Edwards feels the main contributor to solving the problem to this $165 million installation was his company's investment in storage technology. "Our lab strengthens us as a solutions provider rather than just a hardware pusher," he said. "If we were just a box pusher who decided to sell StorageTek and didn't understand connectivity, we would have given StorageTek a bad name."
Since the customer has other data centers, Alliance Technology Group plans to be involved in future storage upgrades. Alliance Technology Group offers its customers quarterly technology refresh services. "After three months, there is usually some sort of update to a roadmap or drive technology that needs to be looked at, so we go in and give them an update. We can often save the customer money by helping them implement a newer technology. One project that's already planned for this customer includes a StorageTek L700E library, which allows two L700s to be linked together to double capacity. For each project, Edwards shows his customers' CIOs how maintenance costs and total cost of ownership can be reduced. "Our customers have to justify every penny these days," he concluded.