Hot backup gets high marks

Hot backup gets high marks

Economic statisticians value data redundancy that LAN upgrade provides

By Susan M. Menke

GCN Staff

BEA's Larry Tyminski, left, and OAO project manager Valarie Burks examine the hot-swap components of the agency's LAN storage systems, which serve 400 users.

Hot, live LAN backup has a strong advocate in Larry Tyminski, deputy chief information officer at the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis.

BEA generates high-level economic statistics such as the gross domestic product and data about national wealth, incomes and industrial production. Its Web site, at, also posts regional economic information plus statistics on international balance of payments and foreign investment. Some data is free, some available by subscription.

When the bureau began the first phase of modernizing hardware on its Fiber Distributed Data Interface LAN last November, it was paving the way for a second phase that will put all the economic data on a four-way, load-balancing Web server cluster under Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0.

'We're a very time-sensitive organization,'' Tyminski said. 'We really beefed up availability and reliability for the economists who work under critical production deadlines.''

The Novell NetWare 4.1 LAN serves more than 400 BEA employees. Most have standard Ethernet connections, but the high-end users who run economic models have switched to Fast Ethernet service, Tyminski said.

In the $800,000 first phase, he worked with CIO Alan Lorish, Rick Martucci and contractor Valarie Burks of OAO Corp. of Greenbelt, Md., to design a new network hardware infrastructure for the 100-Mbps FDDI LAN. The cabling itself was not upgraded.

The LAN's old 100- and 133-MHz file servers from Tricord Systems Inc. of Plymouth, Minn., were not in production anymore, Tyminski said. 'We had difficulty finding parts, and the drivers weren't up to date.''

Final choices

After evaluating several leading server vendors, the BEA group chose the production LAN 400-MHz ProLiant 7000 Pentium Xeon file servers and Fibre Channel RAID storage from Compaq Computer Corp. It selected 333-MHz Compaq ProLiant 3000R servers to run the tape backup subsystems and Novell GroupWise e-mail and scheduling software.

The existing seven-tape backup drives were upgraded to 15-tape Compaq digital linear tape library units. In addition, a modular Symmetra Power Array from American Power Conversion Corp. of W. Kingston, R.I., replaced a standalone uninterruptible power system.

'We added failover servers in numerous places,'' Tyminski said. 'There are levels of redundancy that weren't here before.'' The ProLiant 7000 servers run Vinca StandbyServer software from Legato Systems Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., to assure uptime and availability.

The hardware redundancy and hot-swap features so far have gotten a workout, he said, in 'one or two situations where we had to replace a RAID drive. Compaq Insight Manager [software] notified us of a precursor to failure.''

The first phase of the modernization underwent preliminary testing on a mirrored LAN before it went into production at BEA.

Meanwhile, the $400,000 second phase, now under way, will migrate the Web server software and hardware, add security software and load-balance the ProLiant 3000R servers. BEA also will upgrade its remote dial-in server software from WinFrame from Citrix Systems Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Citrix MetaFrame 1.8.

A network monitoring center will be part of the second phase, Tyminski said.


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