U Wisconsin Research Center Migrates to iSCSI SAN

The University of Wisconsin Center for Health Systems Research & Analysis has chosen the StorMagic SM Series, an iSCSI-based Storage Area Network (SAN) hardware and software solution to replace a legacy storage system.

The Madison-based center works frequently with large existing data sets containing Medicare, Medicaid and, occasionally, private insurance company claims information to study quality of care in Wisconsin. In his role as director of information systems, Richard Ross has done extensive research into data storage options for the center's applications and databases.

"We had been using a storage area network with about 3 TB of usable space," said Ross. "We installed that system in 2001 with 3 TB, but it eventually became very undependable. The vendor offered to let us exchange it for an [enterprise SAN] at an affordable price. The SAN worked well, and we never had a problem with it, but it had far more features than we needed, and once the initial service contract expired, it would have been extremely expensive to renew. Also, since the sale price didn't cover expansion, any growth in the system would have been prohibitively expensive as well."

For that reason, the system has remained at its original 3 TB installed size. Now that is five years old and no longer under warranty, Ross has transitioned it to what he calls "secondary storage." This includes development applications, and archived file and print operations. "Unfortunately, the system has become too costly to maintain, so we are phasing it out," he said. In preparation for that transition, the center has installed the newer iSCSI-based system from StorMagic.

Sikich, an IT infrastructure services firm in Aurora, IL, coordinated the acquisition process and provided the on-site support during the installation. "We installed the StorMagic system and found that we could achieve read/write speeds equivalent to those of the EMC SAN," said Ross. "We are planning to use the system's ability to automate migration. We also like the capability of automatically expanding [logical unit numbers] when a user-set threshold is passed. It reduces the need to manage on a day-to-day basis. We will just set the thresholds and let the system grow automatically."

The StorMagic SM Series SAN has a Windows-based interface for storage management, which allows the administrator to share storage between servers without disruption to users and without adding additional hardware.

Ross said he's happy with his choice. "If things continue to go well, we will phase out the [legacy] SAN system before summer and run everything on StorMagic, which will simplify our operations."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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