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Considering Linux storage management

Linux storage management considerations

Storage Alert By Mike Karp, Network World
August 16, 2004 11:11 AM ET
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With Linux having penetrated the enterprise computer room to the extent that it now runs on everything from the smallest x86 white box server to the largest mainframes, it should be no surprise that almost every storage software vendor these days is making its management offerings available on Linux. Products are now available both from new companies and industry leaders. With some modest research, you can find something suitable for your site no matter whether you work for one of the very largest companies or for something quite a bit smaller.

Fortunately, the move to Linux needn't be particularly traumatic, and many sites find the worry that went into the planning far outweighed the actual problems they encountered. 

The key would appear to involve making sure that, when you make the move, you build in as much efficiency as possible.

Consider the following:

Moving off proprietary systems - even proprietary Unix systems - is usually driven by a need to push the complexity and cost out of application and storage management.  In most cases that is a fine reason to look to Linux.

It's a toss-up when it comes to which is simpler to manage, Linux or Windows, and many shops are quite happy with both.  Which one you choose depends on your application needs, your prejudices, and perhaps whether or nor not you like Bill Gates.  Hardware isn't really a consideration at the low end, and for the most part, you are likely to find that neither is the purchase price.  

IT staffs look to Linux because Linux is standards-based, which in turn means that Linux is relatively cheap to implement and that you will have lots of vendors competing for your business.  As a result, purchasing agents can sometimes rock and roll just a bit more with Linux resellers than they can with Windows resellers when it comes down to working out the pricing issues.

Purchase price, of course, will only be part of the equation.  Ease of deployment will also be a consideration.

The U.S. federal court system not too long ago wrote a deal whose purpose was to rationalize its many disparate data systems.  The deal was for multiple petabytes of data covering the courts' case tracking, probation records, and financial records for over 30,000 judges in the federal system.

Obviously, this was a very large installation, servicing as it did over 800 sites (many of which had multiple servers) and accounting for $17 million spread out over seven years. The principles that drove the decision-making are likely to apply to businesses of any size, however.

The negotiations eventually put together a package running on Red Hat Linux, with Informix as the chief application. The hardware was a mix of HP ProLiant servers and StorageWorks libraries, with BakBone's NetVault 7 and VaultDR for data protection and disaster recovery.

Even for the U.S. government this is going to be a big installation, to be phased in over seven years.

Keys to the final decisions included the following:
* The appropriateness of the Informix application.
* The previously proven interoperability of the HP hardware and the BakBone data protection and DR solutions.
* The integrator's ability to migrate to Linux from the existing Solaris platforms.
* The long-term costs.

Even if you aren't contemplating a $17 million deployment, you will still benefit from adding as much simplicity to the move as possible. This, if your firm is interested in bringing Linux systems on line for the first time, reduce as many of the variables as possible. For example, if you are reasonably happy with the back-up and recovery solution you are already using - and if your vendor offers a reasonably good solution for Linux - why change?  Use the same package and limit training time and expenditures.

Lucky you if this is possible (and luckier still if the GUI for the Linux solution is identical with the one you are using for your other environments).  Luckiest of all will be those of you who can cut a deal with your systems integrator or reseller to deliver a complete package of software, your back-up system of choice, any new hardware you are acquiring, and then add in some data migration services as part of the deal.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

Deni Connor is principal analyst for Storage Strategies NOW and host of both the Masters of Storage and Masters of Servers Solution Centers.

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