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IBM, Brocade at risk as WA Health seeks new 8-Gig fibre channel SAN

Simon Sharwood

West Australia’s Health Department plans to purchase new SANs and fibre channel switches, and may connect SANs on different sites with the seldom-used fibre channel over IP (FCIP) protocol.

The Department currently uses IBM’s DS4300, DS4800, DS6800 disk storage systems and seems intent on replacing these machines with initial capacity of 7.2TB spread over two enclosures, but with the ability to scale to 200 drives. The organisation wishes to use fibre channel drives with a speed of 15kRPM and has mandated at least 4Gb/sec fibre channel connectivity for its new SANs. iSCSI is also an option, as bidders for the project are being asked to provide the iSCSI features of their products. The Department also states that while it is currently seeking SANs, it can foresee possible future need for network-attached storage.

On the network front, the organisation is seeking a new fibre channel “scalable to at least forty (40), 8Gb/sec fibre-channel ports, possibly with fiber channel over IP capability.” FCIP is in the Department’s plans for possible use to connect SANs on different sites to one another for replication purposes, and also as a technology to connect SANs to a tape backup facility in its data centre.

“DOH’s strategic direction for site connection is currently under review, hence the intent to retain the option to either connect the pair-sites via native fibre-channel (utilising dedicated fibre links), or through shared WAN IP connections (generally MPLS) using FCIP.

New storage management software is also on the organisation’s agenda, with requirements including the ability to operate with Emulex and Qlogic HBAs.

All of the components of the new solution are expected to work with the VMware, Windows Server, Redhat Enterprise Linux and IBM AIX environments the department uses on its many sites.

IBM is the Department’s incumbent supplier, with its DS series storage devices currently in use, alongside fiber channel switches from IBM and Brocade, with management from Tivoli software. The tender does not make clear whether the intention is to replace these products, with the Functional Requirements statement saying only that “This Contract will cater for the current and future data storage requirements to support the DOH’s distributed data storage needs.

The inclusion of FCIP in the tender suggests that the Department will settle on a single vendor for the new SANs, as vendors’ implementations of the protocol seldom allow interoperability between rivals’ FCIP-equipped products.

WA Health’s proposed FCIP reference architecture.

Source: Supply, Installation, and Commissioning of Mass Storage Systems (Storage Area Network [SAN] & Storage Subsystems).

 

 

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