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Virgin overhauls storage to cope with Sweetie and Crazy Frog

Arif Mohamed

Virgin Mobile is halfway through a full-scale storage redesign and implementation, centred on Network Appliance (NetApp) storage devices.

The telco's storage requirements have increased dramatically as five million customers began to transmit and store more and more text messages, images, video and music.

Virgin Mobile reviewed its storage infrastructure, then turned to vendor-independent storage consultant GlassHouse Technologies to put together a detailed plan that will eventually see its storage systems consolidated onto a single platform. 

GlassHouse audited Virgin Mobile’s IT storage infrastructure and mapped out a consolidation and growth plan using GlassHouse’s storage management lifecycle (SML) framework. 

In mid-June, Virgin Mobile will finish switching its storage area network (San) to Core-Edge - a scalable and widely deployed San technology.

“Resisting the urge to purchase high-end storage and convincing people that we can use Serial ATA has been a real challenge, not only internally, but also with our outsourcer Atos Origin,” said Bennett.

“As always though, getting approval for a technology project is difficult. We had to ensure that when we presented a very technical project to the board, we gave them as much information as they needed, but didn’t make the presentation too in depth and risk losing their interest and backing.”

The company has two storage setups at two separate locations. One supports Windows on Intel and the other supports Unix. It recently completed implementing a cluster of NetApp devices, supporting its Intel systems. Later, Virgin Mobile will consolidate both the Unix and Intel storage environments in order to drive down costs and gain efficiencies. Bennett said the Unix environment will go from having 15Tb of San storage in October 2003, to now supporting 45TB. 

Hitachi Data Systems Fibre Channel and Serial ATA products, and Brocade San-based switches support the Unix platforms. The Unix environment moved from a dual 1Gb ring SAN to a dual 2Gb Core-Edge San, to be completed by mid June. 

Jason Rabbetts, UK managing director of independent storage consultancy GlassHouse, said, “The ability to move your data to more cost-effective platforms, as it gets less valuable, is all about policy, process, procedure and standard best practice. That’s what [companies] have to crack first. Building a technology to support that is then very straightforward.”


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