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Case Study: Carlson Companies

Carlson Companies is one of the largest privately held companies in the United States, with more than 180,000 employees in more than 140 countries. Carlson enterprises include a presence in marketing, business and leisure travel, and hospitality industries.

Its Information Technology (IT) division, Carlson Shared Services, acts as a service provider to its internal clients and consequently must support a spectrum of user applications and services. The IT division uses a centralized data processing model to meet business operational requirements. The central computing environment includes an IBM mainframe and over 50 networked Hewlett-Packard and Sun servers [KRAN04, CLAR02, HIGG02]. The mainframe supports a wide range of applications, including Oracle financial database, e-mail, Microsoft Exchange, Web, PeopleSoft, and a data warehouse application.

In 2002, the IT division established six goals for assuring that IT services continued to meet the needs of a growing company with heavy reliance on data and applications:

Implement an enterprise data warehouse.

Build a global network.

Move to enterprise-wide architecture.

Established six-sigma quality for Carlson clients.

Facilitate outsourcing and exchange.

Leverage existing technology and resource.

The key to meeting these goals was to implement a storage area network (SAN) with a consolidated, centralized database to support mainframe and server applications. Carlson needed a SAN and data center approach that provided a reliable, highly scalable facility to accommodate the increasing demand of its users.
The Carlson SAN

The core of the Carlson SAN is an IP-based scheme in which Gigabit Ethernet switches carry IP traffic among servers and between servers and the central storage. Attached to the Gigabit switches are Nishan IP Storage switches, which provide a Fibre Channel interface for the servers and storage and an IP traffic switch into the Ethernet core (Figure IV.1). The Ethernet switches enjoy a considerable cost advantage over comparable Fibre Channel switches and require lower-cost management and maintenance.

For redundancy, servers are dual-homed to the IP storage switches, which in turn connect to redundant Ethernet switches. The ratio of servers to storage interconnect is determined by the throughput requirements of each server group. Similarly, multiple IP storage switches connect the Ethernet switch core to the SAN storage system. This configuration can be scaled to support additional servers and storage arrays by adding additional IP storage switches. The network core of Ethernet switches also expands easily by adding additional switches.

The focus of the Carlson SAN is a 13-TB HP Storage Works Disc array. A major consideration in planning the transition was the migration of data from the mainframe’s storage to the central storage. The mainframe hosts several mission-critical applications in a round-the-clock fashion. Thus, an offline data migration was not feasible. The migration of all common data to this array proceeded in two phases. In the first phase, each server was taken offline and a simple copy was performed to transfer the
Figure IV.1 Carlson’s Data Center SAN

application data on the server systems to the new storage system. The second phase involved the transfer of 1.2 TB of data from the mainframe’s legacy storage to the new storage system. Carlson contracted this task out to HP storage experts who made use of proprietary data migration and network management tools to enable the transfer to occur during production processing hours. End users were unaffected during the migration.
Carlson’s IP SAN helps reduce the ongoing administration and management of storage networking by taking advantage of well-established and well-understood IP networking technologies. In addition, putting storage data over IP facilitates integration of more efficient storage services for Carlson’s enterprise-wide network, including centralized backup of remote sites to the data center SAN.
Assess how the Carlson SAN approach would be implemented in today’s environment.
Compare the pros and cons of consolidating data on a SAN central data facility versus the dispersed arrangement it replaces.
Evaluate the issues raised from the Carlson SAN mixing equipment from a number of vendors and determine the management options for dealing with this type of situation.
Justify the reduction of administration and management of storage networking through Carlson’s IP SAN.
Assess how cloud computing could be used by Carlson instead of a SAN. Create a diagram using Visio or its open source alternative software to illustrate the use of cloud computing.
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