Arup dumps 80 devices for a 32Tbyte San

Engineering consultancy Arup has migrated from direct-attached storage to a storage area network using a centralised storage...

Engineering consultancy Arup has migrated from direct-attached storage to a storage area network using a centralised storage system from Network Appliance.

The new consolidated storage infrastructure has resulted in significantly less storage maintenance.

Arup had already moved some of its direct-attached storage to tapeless back-up in 2002, but wanted to extend its server-based system to cover all 2,000 staff at its London headquarters.

The company has implemented a system that uses a large storage area network based on a single server, and two networked attached storage devices.

It folds 80 direct-attached storage devices into a single 32Tbytes filer with two tapeless back-up units, making savings in tape purchasing and server and storage maintenance.

Arup was responsible for the engineering for buildings including the millennium bridge in London, the Sydney Opera House and HSBC's headquarters in Hong Kong. Its project teams collaborate with a wide range of specialists, for example transportation engineers, environmentalists and structural engineers. Developing a flexible and reliable document storage infrastructure was therefore essential.

"Our staff needed storage for a range of data including office automation documents, Cad/Cam engineering files and large spreadsheets," said Martin Cooper, leader of London IT services at Arup.

"The existing systems required 16 separate back-ups and demanded a high level of support. We wanted a product which would simplify system maintenance, reduce costs, decrease support time and also reduce downtime on data recovery."

Cooper said tape back-up was costly in terms of time and money. "And backing up to tape is a murderous bore," he said.

Arup chose a centralised storage system, the Data Ontap operating system from Network Appliance, which had remote management facilities, enabling IT staff to work from home should any failure occur outside office hours.

The system came with Snapshop, a facility that provided a mirror of Arup's Microsoft Exchange environment. The aim was to restore the mirror quickly whenever Exchange failed. Before the new system was implemented, Arup said failures were occurring every six to nine months with recovery times in excess of 24 hours. This put intense pressure on network support resources and caused disruptions to business and staff.

The initial system was put in place for Christmas 2002 and replaced 16 Dell direct-storage devices which served 600 users. Arup has now gone live with the project to cover 2,000 staff.

Arup has seen success with the initial phase of its storage system. "In the 24 months we have not had a single second of outage and this is because of the simplicity of the system. It is just doing one job, unlike a Microsoft server," said Cooper.

He added that Arup expected to see a 26-month return on investment for the two tapeless back-up units, and said the centralised network system was cheaper than the server it replaced.

"We have had good feedback from employees, particularly from engineers using Cad/Cam, with many finding file access much quicker," added Cooper.

"All our staff are now able to restore files directly from Snapshot copies on the system - an improvement which has been positively received. If someone accidentally deletes a file they can now restore it themselves, whereas previously they may have been too embarrassed to ask for help."

Following a successful go-live at the end of June, Cooper plans to transfer all of Arup's 12 London offices to Network Appliance storage within the next two years.

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