Liverpool virtualises computer science storage

The University of Liverpool Computer Science Department has taken on storage area network (SAN) management software to increase the efficiency of its storage systems.

The department is moving towards a virtualised SAN environment by adopting software specially designed for small-to-medium sized businesses (SMB) from specialist vendor StorMagic, to help make the transition from its existing direct-attached RAID systems to an environment that is easier to manage and protect.

With some 600 users, including students and staff, the university department's existing infrastructure is made up of three RAID systems storing five terabytes of data, and digital linear tape (DLT) drives directly attached to two servers via a SCSI interface. Of these RAID systems, two were connected to a server dedicated for staff filestore, while the other is connected to another identical server for student filestore.

Kenneth Chan, University of Liverpool principal experimental officer at the Department of Computer Science, said: "Because of the nature of our department, our users generate vast amounts of data and want to have access to a technology infrastructure that offers them very high availability and performance 24/7."

He added: "The existing RAID systems were directly attached to the servers and as a result, they were becoming marginalised. We decided that networking our storage would be more effective."

The new StorMagic SM Series iSCSI SAN has been deployed to increase management capabilities for the department's existing storage resources and to protect its four TB of data.

Chan said the team chose the new SAN software because of its high reliability, performance, technical support and the ability to work cross-platform on Windows and Linux operating systems (OS). Today, the system acts as filestore to Windows XP and Linux clients.

"The StorMagic system is effectively a SAN that uses existing Ethernet cabling and ordinary' Ethernet switches hence, it eliminates the need for a Fibre Channel infrastructure, which tends to be complex and costly," added Chan. "We plan to also deploy our StorMagic system for near-line disk-based archiving."

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.