Case Study: Taming the Storage Jungle

Client/server technology, low-cost disks, and capacity on various servers strewn across a network have created a virtual storage jungle. Here's how the Bank of Montreal addressed the challenge of consolidating and simplifying storage.


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Managing storage in the old mainframe days was a simple matter. Everything was stored in one place, under the watchful eyes of the operators.

But client/server and low-cost disks changed all that. PCs now come with more storage than most mainframes used to have. Add to this all the capacity strewn throughout the enterprise's file and print servers, database servers, file storage systems, and web servers scattered around the organization and you end up with a vast jungle of capacity that is a nightmare to manage.

"Hard coupling of storage to the servers and applications results in low storage utilization, increases management complexity, and continually drives up the cost for operational support," says Robert Smalley, senior project specialist in the Bank of Montreal's Mid-Range Services Department. "We needed to centralize and simplify the storage management."

Planning for the Future

The Bank of Montreal, part of the BMO Financial Group, is Canada's oldest bank with more than 33,000 employees and $247 billion in assets. The bank's staff, together with customers accessing account information over the Internet or through ATMs, is serviced by the company's 7,500 IT workers. BMO has three main data centers -- two in Toronto where the bank is headquartered and the other in Chicago, where its U.S. unit, Harris Bank, is located.

As with most large enterprises, BMO uses several operating systems, with a different type of direct-attached disk for each operating system. BMO's AIX servers use IBM's proprietary Serial Storage Architecture, which transfers data at up to 160 Mbps; its Sun servers utilize LVS RAID arrays; and its Windows NT/2000 servers use a variety of disks from IBM and Compaq.

Combined, the datacenters hold more than 43 terabytes of storage split among 300 servers. While this is adequate for current needs, the company anticipates capacity demand growth of 20% to 30% per year. Providing for such expansion couldn't be done in the same haphazard method as it had been in the past, so rather than trying to expand the existing mishmash of storage, BMO decided to take a strategic approach to the problem -- a five-year, $20 million plan to consolidate and simplify storage.

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