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4/27/2005
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Law Firm Builds Blade-Server Data Center

Installation of storage-array systems will support a new IP-based storage area network.

Dickinson Wright, a Detroit law firm, revealed Tuesday that it's building a blade-server data center in suburban Bloomfield Hills, Mich., utilizing EqualLogic Inc.'s PS200E IP-based storage arrays. The data center, scheduled for completion this summer, will have five PS200E arrays providing tier-one application storage for 140 servers companywide, including more than 50 IBM BladeCenter servers.

The move to blade computing will allow Dickinson Wright to consolidate servers. "We have 50 blade servers now, and we will continue to migrate and consolidate servers and have about 90 blades by the end of the year," says Alan Hunt, manager of operations at Dickinson Wright.

The Bloomfield Hills data center will house enterprisewide apps such as E-mail, document management, and accounting, and will also serve as the company's primary backup and disaster-recovery site.

The blade servers will allow Dickinson Wright to more easily deploy systems at its four smaller offices, each of which will "consolidate down to a single rack containing a BladeCenter server blade and a PS200E array," Hunt says.

"We don't have support staff in any of our remote locations, so if we wanted to deploy a server, we had to travel there to install it," he says. "With blades, a secretary or receptionist plugs it in and we're up and going." The Bloomfield Hills and Detroit locations will consolidate to about five racks each, he says.

The firm is migrating from direct-attached storage to an IP-based storage area network in order to support the 60-terabyte infrastructure that requires continuous uptime, efficient backup and disaster recovery, and enterprise storage management without the high cost of Fibre Channel. The PS200E systems provide storage virtualization, automatic load balancing, snapshots, and replication. The new blade/SAN infrastructure provides for continuous backups and 98% server utilization.

The setup gives Dickinson Wright flexibility to direct servers as needed to deploy a new applications or recover from a server failure without affecting the productivity of the firm's lawyers.

The firm also is replacing its backup process with a disk-to-disk-to-tape system using CommVault Systems Inc.'s backup and recovery software and REO disk devices and NEO tape libraries from Overland Storage Inc. "The goal is to have as much data protection take place between the EqualLogic array and the REO devices, bypassing the overhead on the servers as much as possible," Hunt says. "Further, I want all of this to take place on the iSCSI SAN side of things, rather than impacting the user environment in any way."

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