Golf club maker chips out of a SAN trap

When golf club manufacturer Ping teed off on the SAN course, it found help from XIOTech's Magnitude platform.

Kent Crossland knew he needed storage, and lots of it. Faced with a large-scale, rapid Oracle implementation, the director of information systems for Ping, the Phoenix-based manufacturer of golf clubs, also knew he needed that storage to be flexible. He was soon to learn how valuable flexibility really is.

The IT team at Ping is in the process of implementing the Oracle 8i database and several Oracle 11i applications. The storage challenge: You have to have multiple instances of the Oracle database when you are implementing applications.

"We originally started with a strategy that called for seven different instances," said Crossland. "We were stunned by the magnitude of the storage required." About 40G Bytes of storage was needed for each instance.

Ping only had 288G Bytes of raw storage capability on the XIOtech Magnitude Storage Area Network (SAN) Crossland had recently installed. The Magnitude was being used for network storage, mostly file serving and e-mail.

"We were concerned," said Crossland. "We had already chosen the Xiotech platform. Now we wondered: Was it compatible with Oracle? How would it perform in the Oracle environment? I was worried about that."

A need for shared storage on a single platform had led Crossland to the Eden Prairie, Minn.-based XIOtech solution. "We had all these servers with dedicated storage," he said. "We lacked the ability to share storage on a single platform so that everything would have the same degree of redundancy and fault tolerance."

Crossland investigated solutions from Houston-based Compaq and Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC Corp., but he was won over by the virtualization features of the XIOtech Magnitude hardware platform. "Virtualization would allow us to reconfigure storage to take advantage of changing requirements, without having to change anything else," he said.

Magnitude allows simultaneous connections to many heterogeneous servers and operating systems. That was a perfect fit for Ping, which uses a variety of servers running Sun Solaris and Windows NT 4.0, as well as a mainframe.

"With some storage solutions you have to dedicate drives to a given server," said Crossland. "With Magnitude, there's just one storage platform. You may have several different servers sharing the same drive and the servers don't know that. They don't have to. They just see the volume."

The Oracle implementation put Magnitude to the test. Faced with the need to ramp up storage quickly, Crossland initially purchased 16 drives, each with 18G Bytes of capacity and able to run at 15,000RPM. These were configured as a single cluster in a RAID-10 configuration that was dedicated to Oracle production.

Right away, the marriage of Xiotech and Oracle worked well. "In fact, Oracle has a white paper on how to configure its database and it is like they are describing the Magnitude," said Crossland. "We just added the new drives to our existing Magnitude. It was a very simple process."

Crossland was amazed to discover those 16 new drives were not enough. More storage space was needed for the test and patch and configuration instances. At the same time, for unrelated reasons, it became clear more network storage was needed. Ten 36G-Byte drives were added to the mix.

Although the XIOtech solution doesn't require the clustering of drives, Crossland chose to set up two drive clusters. The RAID-10, high-performance cluster was dedicated to the Oracle production environment. A RAID-5 cluster was dedicated to network storage.

"The cluster approach gave us a dedicated Oracle storage system that optimized the performance of the Oracle database and applications," said Crossland.

After taking the first few steps of the planned rapid implementation, Crossland and his 12-person team did a reality check. "The Oracle implementation was more complex and risky than we had thought it would be," Crossland said. The team went back to the drawing board and redesigned the Oracle implementation. "A slower, phased implementation made more sense, once we knew what we had bitten off," he said.

This new plan changed the storage requirements yet again. More space was allocated for the production environment than was needed in the short term.

Crossland reconfigured the system again. He left the Oracle production cluster in place, but he moved some of that cluster's capacity over to the network storage and test instance cluster.

All the changes in storage configuration have been easy to implement, according to Crossland. "This is just what the XIOtech solution allows you to do," he said. Virtualization capabilities give the Magnitude tremendous flexibility, "allowing us to mix and match different drives and mix and match RAID configurations," he added.

Thus far, Crossland and his team have implemented Oracle 11i general ledger, accounts payable, purchasing and inventory applications. In June, they expect to implement production applications, such as bill of materials and work-order processing.

As production grows, Crossland expects to move the storage back to the production drive. He's sure that making this change will be a snap. He's also relieved that Magnitude and virtualization have lived up to their promises. "We chose this platform because we thought it would give us flexibility," said Crossland. "We picked the right platform."

To learn more about Ping, take a look at its Web site

For more on XIOtech Magnitude visit XIOTech's  Web site

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This was first published in June 2002
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