SANs May Be Answer To Growing Thirst For More Storage

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The Project: The University of Wisconsin CU's first CRM and Business Intelligence platforms

The Vendor: possibly Fidelity Integrated Financial Solutions

The Vision: "On the backend, there won't be a huge learning curve in the way that it's architected, but it'll be a big deal for our tellers."

-Jamie Valentine, UWCU network manager

Data: It's everywhere, and credit unions are turning to high-speed Storage Attached Networks (SANs) for a place to keep it all.

The Credit Union Journal reported in March that SANs have become an attractive storage device for the mountains of data that are spilling from new high-byte technologies, such as popular check and document imaging systems.

With more than two terabytes of available storage space, 70 servers, and 10,000 check images every day, University of Wisconsin CU can testify to that growth.

"I don't see it letting up," said Jamie Valentine, network manager at the $800-million CU. "The amount of disc space we've needed has more than doubled in five years, and the number of servers has essentially doubled. And we're still adding disc space and buying servers."

A Reflection Of A Larger Trend

Some suggest credit unions merely reflect the larger trend. The amount of data worldwide has grown beyond gigabytes, terabytes and even petabytes, and is now measured in exabytes. In fact, the planet stores anywhere from 10 to 50 exabytes of data, according to various sources.

"I've given up trying to eliminate the data," said Valentine. "I've just got to figure out how to manage it, have the capacity for it and back it up."

While it's true that SANs won't stop the spread of data, they are easier and cheaper to upgrade than conventional storage systems, according to many credit union Information Technology managers.

In addition, a SAN is a network in its own right, therefore freeing up local-area networks for employee's daily tasks. SANs are also faster, accelerating data transfers using a technology known as fibre channel.

Indeed, SANs are the best hope for data backup and recovery at University of Wisconsin CU, Valentine said. The credit union's SAN stores up to two weeks of data and performs routine backups, which are then copied to tape for off-site storage.

Valentine can easily expand the storage space within the SAN. "We can double the number of discs we have on the SAN right now," he said.

In contrast, adding tape storage is an awkward and slippery slope, Valentine continued.

"We were in a predicament," he said. "When we ran out of capacity on our tape drive, we added a second tape drive. Then we added a third. And a fourth."

The SAN backups take half the amount of time of tape backups, and recovery takes a few moments instead of a couple hours, added Valentine.

Growing Into A Larger Role

SANs will soon grow into a larger role at UWCU, fulfilling production needs as well as backup requirements, Valentine said.

The CU plans to add a SAN to store production data in its local Windows environment this year, which will replicate to another new SAN at its disaster recovery site, he said.

"SANs will allow us to centralize our storage," he explained. "We can store some of our static data to the SAN. That way, we can remove that static data from our backup routine so that we're not backing it up every weekend."

"Replicating our data to a SAN will also allow us to backup every hour if we want, whereas with tape backup we can only backup every 24 hours. Then, we won't risk losing a day's worth of data like we could with tape backups," he added.

UWCU's disc and data backup solutions are provided by San Diego, Calif.-based Overland Storage.

CUJ Resources

For info on this story:

* University of Wisconsin CU at

* Overland Storage at

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