Storage Upgrades Increase Productivity

By David P. Marino-Nachison  |  Posted 2005-10-31 Print this article Print

Although months of work remain, according to Polymenakos, Ecker has already seen the storage upgrade produce substantial benefits.

First, the new system boosts storage capacity substantially. Rather than regularly running 90 percent full, Polymenakos said he gets alerts at 80 percent. (His aim is to put mitigation measures in place when capacity reaches 70 percent.)

Because of the old systems reliance on LANs, backups—when successful—seriously affected user performance, Polymenakos said, as disk-to-tape backups could take 9 hours, keeping users offline for long intervals.
That complicated the timing of backups, since Ecker operates across time zones.

With the IP SAN setup, the first set of disk-to-disk "snapshot" backups requires less than an hour; theyre usually finished by 1 a.m. daily and are performed at IT headquarters, Polymenakos said. Follow-up disk-to-tape backups are completely transparent to the user. "I can do the backup from the snapshot at 2 a.m. when it doesnt affect anybody," he said.

Polymenakos said there hasnt been a failure in eight months. Total backup time has been cut by perhaps 90 percent, he estimated.

Restoring lost data is also much easier, Polymenakos said. The old system kept backup data on tape, sometimes making it difficult to find data and requiring a 30-minute restoration job. Now, with the data snapshots stored on disk, restores can take less than a minute. While Polymenakos doesnt expect to do more than one of these per month, he can now do so with greater ease and confidence.

Tivoli automates remote backup. Read more here. Storage allocation changes are now easier and quicker. SBAs "push-button allocation" feature, Polymenakos estimated, can cut the time required from as much as 6 hours to 10 minutes—meaning, again, less downtime for Ecker users. These results, Mok and James agreed, are typical of those companies moving to SAN solutions from DAS systems, such as the one Ecker used.

In addition, the system Ecker now has, Polymenakos said, is easily expandable, even if Ecker decides to broaden its national footprint again: New equipment wont require another storage overhaul, and growth in the costs of training and maintenance can be more easily kept within the companys financial means.

But the benefits that the storage upgrade has brought Ecker, Polymenakos said, are perhaps best measured in terms of time—not only his and his teams (the latter of which has since contracted by one member), but also in terms of the potential for lost productivity among Eckers staff in the field and in its offices.

Finally, by addressing its storage problems, said Polymenakos, Ecker has been able to begin its transition to the IT overhaul, the benefits of which have moved well beyond the desktop. (Illinois neighbor Peters & Associates Inc. is the integrator working with Ecker on the broader project.) Eckers contractors, for example, traditionally spent substantial amounts of time, energy and gasoline shuttling to and from job sites to check data at their terminals. The new Citrix technology lets them see that data on-site.

"When guys are in a truck, theyre not doing what they need to do," Polymenakos said. "All that windshield time was spent going to the office to touch a computer. Ive [taken] the computers to where they are."

That fits neatly into what Polymenakos said is his and Eckers view of what IT should be doing at the company: supporting its growth, not putting out or worrying about fires.

"One of the overarching goals of this project is that I dont have to worry about whether e-mail is flowing every day," Polymenakos said. "Time I spend trying to handhold a broken system is time Im not spending doing things that generate some value."

David P. Marino-Nachison is a free-lance writer based in Washington.

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