For Mike Forman, Director of North American IT operations for Cadence Design Systems Inc., Network Appliance Inc.s gFiler was the gateway solution he needed to allow NAS access to his IBM Enterprise Storage Server units.
Cadence Design Systems, a San Jose, Calif., maker of electronic design automation tools, has 63 offices and 5,500 employees worldwide. Revenue last year totaled $1.2 billion. To handle the job of storing more than 400TB of data companywide, Cadence started out with DAS (direct-attached storage) systems. Within the past year, however, the company has consolidated 200TB of storage onto NetApp and IBM storage systems, with the bulk of the storage—130TB—running on IBM systems, Forman said.
Cadence started testing in November 2003 and did its major rollout of the gFilers in January 2004. As early access testers, the company had input into the design of Network Appliances Data OnTap 7G operating system update, and early access to code. Although no cost was given for this project, pricing for the gFiler starts at $40,000.
At Cadences larger locations, IBM ESS systems handle the load. Because these systems do not have NAS (network-attached storage) capabilities, Forman furnishes the ESS systems with gFiler front-end gateways.
Forman said NetApps new thin-provisioning capabilities have become an integral tool for the management and optimization of Cadences storage infrastructure.
"gFilers thin-provisioning capabilities allow us to use virtual space as opposed to dedicating disks to users," Forman said. "This gives us the ability to borrow unused capacity and give it to someone else without the customer knowing."
Using these thin-provisioning capabilities, Forman has been able to increase the efficiency of his current storage systems, instead of just buying new storage when clients request it.
Although the thin provisioning works well for file shares, it should be noted that Cadence does not use this functionality to optimize its database storage. Databases, in general, dont work well with virtual storage.
Forman used the NAS gateways (gFilers and the previous Auspex and Veritas solutions) to facilitate file-level backups of the companys IBM ESS systems. Without the gateways, IBM ESS systems must use block-level backups, which are difficult to restore and manage.
Instead of enduring a long and arduous volume restore to retrieve a file, Cadence can now use its installed Veritas and Legato Systems backup systems to restore files quickly and directly.
In the past, the gFilers consumed large amounts of storage overhead when performing RAID checksums, Forman said. The procedure wasted as much as 10 percent of Cadences raw disk resources, he estimated.
After upgrading his gFilers and deploying the new release of the Data OnTap 7G operating system, Forman was pleased to see that the improved checksum created only about 1 percent storage overhead on his storage systems.
Forman runs his gFilers in the suggested two-node cluster configuration, keeping each node at 50 to 60 percent utilization. This configuration has been reliable for him, but like most IT managers, hes hoping that technology advances will make storage faster and more reliable, while maintaining the trends for lower prices.