Lionbridge's IP SAN-powered storage strategy for content services

Content services provider Lionbridge opted for an IP storage area network (SAN) in its Mumbai data center to overcome file server management complexity.

By Jasmine Desai, Principal Correspondent,

Storage has a strategic role to play at Lionbridge Technologies Pvt. Ltd., since content development is its operational focus. A leading Indian content services provider since its inception in 1996, the company relies on effective information retrieval and efficient storage management to drive its worldwide business.

Lionbridge started out as a translation and localization company. Along the way, the company built a very diverse portfolio with various business areas such as application development and e-learning. As is the case with many content-driven business models, unexpected data growth and the associated management complexities came into the picture along with business growth.

At this point in time, Lionbridge used normal file servers from Hewlett-Packard Co. "File servers were fine, but files had to be managed efficiently. Since the data was growing, we were looking for a scalable solution. We needed a storage solution that could keep pace with our growth," explains Subhasis Chatterjee, the head of IT for Lionbridge. Since it became essential for Lionbridge to have a robust storage technology in place to keep up with business growth, the IT team took the call to deploy an IP-based storage area network (SAN).

SAN evaluation parameters

Lionbridge has a standard list of vendors, decided by its corporate office. This list identifies vendors based on their responsiveness and technical capabilities.

Mangesh Ghadigaonkar, Lionbridge's assistant manager for system administration, explains that during the SAN solution's evaluation, the primary factors were data size and rate of data growth. "For any SAN solution sizing, data growth should be looked at from a long-term perspective, like over three years. Apart from that, also consider the kind of application (normal file server, web server, etc.) being run on that storage device," Ghadigaonkar explains.

An IP SAN was chosen since it provided the maximum value for Lionbridge's requirements. Lionbridge required an end-to-end solution, rather than just storage. Hence, the decision was made to opt for a vendor that could work seamlessly with the company on all platforms, including computing, servers and storage. "At that point of time, IBM was gradually getting rid of its PC business. HP was going through its post-acquisition metamorphosis, leading to skepticism about its stability. There was no clarity in the way these vendors were evolving," Chatterjee reminisces.

Support figured prominently into Lionbridge's selection criteria. "Vendors like HP, IBM or Dell are quite mature on the technology front. Hence, the vendor's ability to support us makes the difference, not the technology. If the pre-sales and post-sales support aspects are taken care of, especially the logistics part, then the vendor will definitely do well in India. We opted for an IP SAN solution from Dell, primarily due to the vendor's excellence in logistics," Chatterjee explains.

Implementation and after

A file repository has been Lionbridge's business requirement from the IP SAN. Rolled out in 2006, the IP SAN at Lionbridge's Mumbai data center started off with a 2.2 TB capacity The IP SAN was upgraded to 3 TB in February.

An IP SAN was chosen since it provided the maximum value for Lionbridge's requirements. Lionbridge required an end-to-end solution, rather than just storage.

Dell assisted Lionbridge with the installation, and later in-house IT team members configured the SAN to their requirements. "There were no implementation challenges for us, since Dell was very supportive," Ghadigaonkar says.

The testing period lasted for two weeks before Lionbridge's SAN went live. Configured in RAID 5, Lionbridge's IP SAN is connected to four Dell servers (running on Intel Core 2 Duo processors). No other applications are connected to the IP SAN, and it is being used as a file repository. Lionbridge archives old data on a monthly basis.

Storage consolidation has been the biggest benefit from the SAN front for Lionbridge. "Earlier, files were residing over various file servers in a scattered manner. Now, they are consolidated into one single storage system, and our regular backup happens from that system. Tape library is also connected to the SAN boxes, reducing the backup time frame," Chatterjee says.

According to Lionbridge, the storage environment has been upgraded for high SAN availability. When the file servers were residing on different servers, proper air conditioning and an uninterrupted power supply system were absent. With SANs, Lionbridge has taken care of this deficiency, thus building in high redundancy levels.

Going forward

Since Lionbridge's main data center is located in the United States, the Mumbai data center is prepared to manage the near-term future. However, Lionbridge's full-fledged U.S. data center is definitely set for some transformation.

"Adoption of new technologies such as cloud computing and virtualization will take place in our U.S. data center. Most of the people will work remotely through the cloud. We believe in that mode, as it guarantees high availability and more security," Chatterjee says.

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