The world’s first wireless Internet Protocol (IP) Storage Area Network was born of an enduring necessity: the need to save money.
“Acquiring IP services to our local sites would have cost us $50,000 to $70,000 per month,” said Denis Van Dale, network administrator for Steinbach Credit Union. “It was much more economical to build our own transmission towers and use wireless Ethernet to provide storage over IP.”
The cost of building the radio transmission towers and installing the wireless infrastructure was less than $200,000, so the system paid for itself in a matter of months.
Nishan Systems, XIOtech Corporation and Proxim combined to build the system at Steinbach Credit Union in Manitoba, Canada.
“If there’s any other wireless SAN out there, it’s well hidden,” said Tom Clark, director of technical marketing for Nishan Systems. “This is the sort of industry first that anyone who’s done it would be eager to get press coverage. So Steinbach is the first wireless IP storage network, or, at the very least, the first to be publicly announced.”
Lightning Strikes Twice
Van Dale said the credit union — Canada’s largest, with more than 47,000 members and assets of more than $1 billion — had survived a couple of scares, including two lightning strikes and flooding, that served as “wake-up calls.” So Van Dale and his boss, Lloyd Dueck, set out to develop a disaster recovery plan.
They settled on XIOtech’s SAN products based on a recommendation. “We found the product lived up to expectations,” Van Dale said. “It was so easy to manage it was almost funny.”
But the connection to the Winnipeg office 40 miles away turned out to be much harder to manage. XIOtech recommended Nishan Systems and Proxim, and Steinbach soon set out to make IT history.
Van Dale said there were “a few hiccups along the way,” such as outages caused by interference from other wireless towers, but once the radios were tuned to avoid interference, the new system functioned smoothly. And the XIOtech SAN was intelligent enough to adjust for outages.
The system’s speed, with transfer rates of 7 megabytes per second, allows Steinbach to back up all 6 terabytes of its data, not just the critical stuff.
“We had a lot of concerns,” Van Dale said, such as security and the effect of weather on the system, “but they were able to answer all our questions.”
Wireless Ethernet Bridges and Radio Towers Connect Sites, Save Money
The credit union is using XIOtech’s Magnitude storage platforms and REDI SAN Links Replicator software to provide data replication, and Nishan IP storage switches to transport Fibre Channel-originated data over IP network services. Proxim wireless Ethernet bridges and radio transmission towers are used to connect the primary and secondary sites.
“Nishan’s ability to rate limit the DR traffic also lets us use the wireless link to provide host access from our Winnipeg site to our XIOtech Magnitude storage platforms in Steinbach,” Van Dale said. “This streamlines our server administration and further reduces our overall costs.”
For security, the Proxim wireless LAN boxes provide data encryption as an option, according to Nishan’s Clark. There are also a number of “bump in the wire” products available from vendors such as CipherOptics, NetScreen, SonicWall and others that provide 3-DES encryption for any IP traffic, he said. In the Steinbach example, those could be placed between the Nishan switches (which are converting Fibre Channel to iFCP) and the Gigabit Ethernet/Fast Ethernet switches, according to Clark.
“Security for any untrusted segment of an IP network is readily available today and essentially off-the-shelf,” Clark said. “We’ve tested with all the major security vendors, including NeoScale and Decru on the Fibre Channel side.”
Breakthrough Solution Reduces Barrier to Entry for Disaster Recovery
“This solution breaks new ground for customers who need to accommodate their requirements for high-availability access to storage data as well as the budget restrictions we’re all living with today,” Clark said. “This innovative solution clearly demonstrates the advantage of IP and Fibre Channel convergence for critical business applications, including disaster recovery.”
“This pioneering solution reduces the barrier to entry for companies implementing disaster recovery,” said Dan McCormick, vice president of marketing for XIOtech.
XIOtech said its Magnitude storage platform is bounded entirely by open-systems standards and incorporates all networked storage components into a centralized configuration. The company says the platform is “the only networked storage solution designed from the ground up to include a virtualized storage architecture. The result is an adaptive storage foundation that scales easily to accommodate growing business needs.”
Nishan IP Storage switches support Fibre Channel switching, Gigabit Ethernet switching, and wire-speed conversion between Fibre Channel and Gigabit Ethernet. Each interface can be configured to support iSCSI end systems, Fibre Channel end systems, or Fibre Channel SANs. The multi-protocol switches also support (via iSCSI or iFCP) remote storage links of any distance across high-speed IP networks, Nishan said. They can be used to connect existing Fibre Channel SANs through a standard E_Port interface or to build an IP SAN fabric that integrates Fibre Channel and iSCSI devices with data center, metro-area, or wide-area IP networks.
Nishan Systems, which bills itself “the world’s first supplier of native IP Storage solutions,” claims a number of industry firsts, including: the first wire-speed multi-protocol IP storage switch; the first multi-vendor transcontinental IP SAN (the Promontory Project); the first multi-gigabit transcontinental IP SAN (San Diego Supercomputer Center/GRID); the first secure IP SAN (in partnership with SonicWall, NetScreen and other security vendors); the first wire-speed iSCSI demonstration (with Alacritech and HDS); the first data center IP SAN (Carlson Companies); and the first SAN Internetworking installation (Microsoft).
“In all these instances, no one has challenged to say they had it first,” Clark said.
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