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Project saves money with hierarchical storage.

Maintaining a link to data location on the storage media means easy retrieval.

This year, Wasatch Constructors, a joint venture of companies in Idaho, Nebraska and California, will complete the rebuilding of the I-15 corridor across the entire 17-mile stretch of the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. The $1.5 billion project, the largest design-build project ever undertaken in the U.S. at the time (1997), used a wireless Internet virtual private network (VPN) connection to the Kiewit Pacific home office in Omaha, NE, to support the main company offices stretched across seven locations throughout the Salt Lake Valley.

Those seven locations are connected by a WAN infrastructure using T-1 frame relay. The main office also houses network connections between the job owner, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), Wasatch Constructors and the design team of Sverdrup/Deleux, for e-mail and data sharing on a server. The four-year project generates a significant amount of critical data that must be managed on-site.

"We have approximately 300 computer systems that are handled by five servers," explains Andy Black, computer network administrator at Morrison Knudsen, and the sole IT support for the entire project. "Two of the servers handle the design data, and two of them store all of the scanned documentation that we produce on the project. Our document control maintains all of the correspondence, change orders, field inspection reports and other major documentation that goes throughout the job. All of that information is stored not only in hard copy, but is scanned in and stored electronically."

The reams of documentation generated by public transportation construction projects must be kept accessible throughout the duration of the project. Only six months into Wasatch's project, the hard-drive space on the main and common document control servers was almost gone.

"The problem that we were having is that our servers did not have the drive-space capacity to hold the amount of information we were putting out there," remembers Black. "When we looked at cost factors of having to increase the amount of volume space for each of those servers, it would have been approximately $140,000, because we would have to buy a RAID array for each of the servers, plus additional tape backup units."

Black started looking for a solution that would be less costly, and found that implementing hierarchical storage management (HSM) would allow Wasatch Constructors to avoid buying external hard drives and additional backup devices, while still providing immediate access to the data. HSM moves data from an active server volume to a storage device, such as an optical jukebox, but maintains a link to the data's location on the storage media so that it can be easily retrieved by users.

An optical jukebox is less costly than a RAID array, and does not require additional backup devices to manage the data. The magneto-optical (MO) media used in the jukeboxes hold sizeable amounts of data and are rewriteable, which made an MO jukebox the storage media of choice for HSM.

"The magneto-optical disks hold roughly 5 GB instead of only 700 MB like a CD, so we have fewer disks and the ability to rewrite," says Black. "The information that we use and access on the jukebox can be changed, erased, rewritten and worked with on a regular basis. That is important with an HSM implementation."


Black researched the available optical jukeboxes and priced an HP SureStore 80EX and an HP SureStore 400. He also searched for HSM software that would integrate with the server's Novell operating system. After researching a number of different software products, Black found CaminoSoft Corp., Westlake Village, CA, a Novell partner. Its software, Highway Server, is specifically designed to integrate into NetWare's NDS Directory Services.

"The software appeared to do everything we needed it to," Black comments. "When we combined its cost with the cost of the jukebox for our main server, we saved $56,000." An additional jukebox, an HP SureStore 80EX and the Highway Server software brought the total savings to approximately $114,000.

"At that point, I only had 200 MB of free space on my main server, so I had to have something immediately," Black explains. "I put it in, turned it on and the system automatically started archiving for us, and immediately cleared off 6 GB of space from the server."

Black has run the software HSM implementation on both servers for approximately two years. Between the two servers, 80 GB of data has been migrated, leaving 14 GB of active data on each server and 6 GB of free space.

"The way the software works is that it's able to mark files on the server in designated directories according to their age," explains Black. "After a certain amount of time, it will pull those files off and stick them on external storage, but leave a stub of that file on the server that points to where it is on the optical jukebox. The files and information on the server are always accessible by just clicking on them."

Even though the users access the migrated files regularly across a wide area network (WAN), there has only been a slight delay added to the normal access time for demigration, which usually averages at about five to 10 seconds.

"There's occasionally a pause while the software goes out and finds the file, especially if the drives in the optical jukebox are currently in use," affirms Black, "but that delay may be 30 seconds maximum, which is across a WAN using T-1 lines. The users don't notice because most of the time they just think of that as network delay. The actual demigration across the WAN is faster than loading some Web pages from a modem."


With less than a year left on the current project, Black does not foresee having to upgrade or replace the system he has in place, even though both servers are Pentium 200s with limited internal hard-drive capacity.

"The information getting stored on the servers is starting to lessen," he says. "The servers we have are plenty fast for the jobs that we're doing. They're just file servers, so their processing power is not really relied on as much as an application server. On new upcoming jobs we would probably implement the same deal as here--put in the optical jukeboxes and the Highway Server software to avoid having to buy outlandishly expensive new servers."

One other advantage of the solution has been to reduce the amount of time required to do backups. Black needs a full day to do a complete backup of both servers' active volumes. Since the migrated data is backed up before it is written to the optical jukebox, only the active server volumes need to be backed up. If Black had to back up all of the data, as he would if they had purchased the more expensive RAID array solution, it would take him two-and-a-half days.

"Obviously, I wouldn't be getting full backups all the time if I had to back up the entire database," he explains. "I can't do backups when people are working, which would mean not being able to do a complete backup on a weekly basis, or having downtime during the week."

Circle 250 for more information from CaminoSoft
COPYRIGHT 2001 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Technology Information
Comment:Wasatch Constructors, a joint venture of companies in Idaho, Nebraska and California, is completing the rebuilding of a 17-mile segment of a wireless Internet virtual private network (VPN) that will connect seven locations in the Salt Lake Valley.
Publication:Communications News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2001
Previous Article:Tap the power of the Internet.
Next Article:Be aware of off-site storage security.

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