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Rackspace Taps Brocade for Leaner, Greener Cloud SANs

By Pedro Hernandez

The cloud computing company manages growth with Brocade's efficient Gen 5 Fibre Channel SAN technology.

Cloud computing's runaway popularity is leaving providers in a bind. While it's generally a good problem to have, accelerating growth -- 200,000-plus customers and counting in Rackspace's case -- can lead to complexity in the data center, not to mention outsized power bills.

Rackspace, the San Antonio, Texas-based provider of cloud computing services, turned to Brocade and its Gen 5 Fibre Channel SAN interconnection platform to help implement an upgrade storage architecture that can grow with the company while promoting energy efficiency. Brocade's tech is also helping the company squeeze a little more precious rack space out of its data centers.

Sean Wedige, CTO of Rackspace Enterprise Solutions at Rackspace, said in a statement that his company worked with Brocade and EMC to "to design a SAN fabric that was easy to grow and manage, while providing the flexibility to allow our data center technicians to connect any device to any switch in the fabric." The end result not only helped boost data storage reliability and availability, it also helped cut energy costs.

The SAN fabric upgrade, reported Wedige, "has allowed us to use less space and power, supporting our green initiatives, while allowing us better utilization of our physical facilities."

Rackspace swapped out its storage director and small fixed-port switch storage network topography, which led to a "stove pipe effect" that led to islands of unused storage and inhibited growth, with a "plug anywhere in the data center" model. The new design leverages a combo of Brocade 8510 directors and UltraScale Inter-Chassis Links (ICLs), an approach that allows the company to connect all front-facing ports to EMC VMAX arrays.

"Brocade UltraScale ICLs can connect up to ten Brocade DCX 8510 Backbones at distances of up to 100 meters, enabling flatter, faster and simpler fabrics that increase consolidation while reducing network complexity and costs," boasted Brocade in a statement.

SAN monitoring is provided by Brocade Fabric Vision, a customizable dashboard that provides at-a-glance metrics on system health and performance. Rackspace is currently in the process of implementing Flow Vision and ClearLink, a set of Fabric Vision features that enable administrators to analyze, monitor and ultimately optimize application data flows.

Rackspace is currently in the midst of a sweeping transition to OpenStack, the popular open source cloud computing platform that the company had a hand in creating. Graham Weston, the company's co-founder, who took over as CEO for just-retired Lanham Napier, said during a recent earnings call that his company expects its OpenStack-powered private cloud offerings to take off in 2014.

"We saw a lot of proof-of-concept action in 2012 and early 2013, and now we're very happy to see that those proofs-of-concept are moving into production and projects," said Weston.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InfoStor. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

  This article was originally published on Tuesday Mar 4th 2014
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