Legal Storage Upgrade - InformationWeek
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6/25/2004
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Legal Storage Upgrade

Law firm turns to IP-based SAN to save money and handle growing numbers of electronic documents

Law firms have been slow to embrace electronic documents. But now that they have, they also need to upgrade their storage and archiving systems.

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Storage needs are growing rapidly, says CIO Walsh (left), with Muhammed Husaini.
Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon LLP employs 550 people, and its lawyers have been demanding better tools to store and manage electronic documents. "The need for storage is growing quite rapidly," CIO Steve Walsh says. "We process a lot of evidence in litigation, and it's all electronic now."

Last year, the firm used 90 Gbytes to store litigation data; this year, it's up to around 600 Gbytes. That required Walsh to change the firm's storage infrastructure, moving from a bunch of high-capacity disk drives to an automated storage area network. Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon first looked at Fibre Channel storage networks because it thought that was the only way to get the performance it needed. There also were questions about the maturity of IP-based SANs.

However, after looking at SANs from three Fibre Channel storage vendors and analyzing cost and other factors, the firm decided to go with an IP SAN from Intransa Inc. "We kept our analysis open after we looked at the pricing for a Fibre Channel SAN, including training and implementation," says the law firm's network manager, Muhammed Husaini. "Intransa is based on the Ethernet backbone, and everyone knows that."

Walsh says the firm spent less than $80,000 on the SAN. "Some of the Fibre Channel SANs we looked at cost four to five times as much," he says. "We had performance issues at the beginning, but software improvements were made by Intransa in time to meet our needs."

Intransa is continuing to beef up the performance of its SAN, and the latest version of its operating system, StorControl, has improvements in capacity, performance, and snapshot-replication capabilities. It can now handle four storage controllers and six disk enclosures. It also improves performance to 360 Mbytes per second and increases capacity to 24 terabytes.

The product should appeal to businesses where cost is a factor, top performance isn't a requirement, and IP expertise is available, says Greg Schulz, an analyst at research firm Evaluator Group. But, he says, "small companies looking for screaming performance would still have to choose Fibre Channel."

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