The Sky's The Limit For Intelligence Agency's SAN Solution
A $750,000 project to improve management of an intelligence agency's satellite photography prompts additional sales for that customer and adoption of similar systems by several other agencies.
When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld showed the nation satellite images during the Iraq War, the general public probably didn't appreciate the challenge intelligence agencies face to store and retrieve those massive images. However, Brad Willcockson, president of storage integrator Marzik, Inc. (Lanham, MD), knows that SANs (storage area networks) are a strategic initiative when it comes to making those images accessible and secure.
Marzik has provided storage solutions to the intelligence community for six years, including several projects involving aerial photography. It was Marzik's reputation in this vertical market that provided an opportunity to provide the first solution of this type in January 2002. The integrator was called because the intelligence agency was struggling to manage a homegrown application for migrating files. The system simply couldn't handle the petabytes of data, which included active images on the server as well as archived images that were often retrieved for comparative analysis. Another weakness of the system was that analysts couldn't collaborate on the images.
Marzik proposed a SAN solution in which the images come into the system through the ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) network and are written to a SAN disk from Hitachi Data Systems Corp. before being transferred to the Sun servers. Marconi ATM switches and Brocade switches are used in the solution. Based on rules set by the user, the data stays on the server for a given period of time and is then migrated using VERITAS Storage Migrator from VERITAS Software Corp. (Mountain View, CA). The images are archived to a Scalar 10K tape library from Advanced Digital Information Corp. (ADIC). This SAN-enabled library uses LTO (linear tape-open) media.
The SAN is managed using VERITAS' SANPoint Control, which provides a single interface for managing multi-vendor SANs. It integrates performance and policy management as well as zoning and provisioning. Automated notifications and recovery are also supported. To provide for disaster recovery, Marzik installed VERITAS NetBackup software. All of the analysts can securely access the data and add notes or mark up images based on their specialties, such as building structure or regional information.
Complex Installation Challenges VAR
With assistance from the agency's IT staff, the project was completed in three stages of about two weeks each. The most challenging part of the operation was running parallel systems to assure that there was no downtime or data loss during the switchover. The single data feed was sent to both systems until it was assured that the new solution was working reliably. Though there was about a week and a half of training for the IT staff, most was concurrent with the installation.
"The more complex the system, the more work you have to do to sell it," comments Willcockson. To win this deal, Marzik had to provide a concept of operations document in addition to project designs, diagrams, and budgets. The intelligence agency requested a five-year life cycle analysis and specific information regarding all inputs, outputs, and processes.
The original deal was about $750,000, but the agency has since purchased additional libraries, software, and ongoing maintenance. The infrastructure itself continues to evolve as well. "Mini sub-SANs have developed and the next biggest challenge will be to manage them not as islands, but as infrastructure," says Willcockson. "The biggest driver in SANs today is manageability."