Bulletproof storage

Could your storage array survive an actual bullet?

The Matrix Bullet Dodge

As Halloween 2014 will be upon us shortly, I tried to think of a good scary Halloween themed post for this blog, and realized that data storage is not a very scary subject.

So what would be scary to an IT person who’s primary focus is storage? Maybe getting accidentally locked in a data center as the Halon system goes off? Nope, I think they outlawed Halon gas-based fire suppression systems a while back for data centers as there is the possibility of dying as the Oxygen runs out. How about running out of storage capacity at 3 AM during year-end batch processing? Nope, that’s not scary, that’s just stupid planning. Being named as the primary backup administrator for the IRS would be pretty scary, but I wanted something better.

I then remembered a video I saw once which highlighted an HP XP12000 storage array. Although not real scary, it was pretty violent. They did an actual test of firing a 308 caliber bullet through the array as it was operating and reading multiple videos during the demonstration. I always thought that would make a pretty cool marketing video, and they actually pulled it off. You can see the video here:

Although it’s over 8 years old, it was still pretty cool thing to do from a marketing perspective. By the way, the XP12000 was actually built by Hitachi. I wonder why HDS never marketed their systems that way.  HDS used the term Lightning as the product name (and thunder for the smaller modular storage arrays) so perhaps showing the system surviving a tornado or hurricane would have worked. I personally saw that same storage subsystem (not the exact same system, but the same model) survive the 9/11 attacks. Our PS guys at HDS went down to the World Trade Center site a couple days after the buildings fell, and removed the subsystems out of the sub-basement of an adjacent building. They cleaned off the dust, shipped the subsystem to NJ to another data center, and turned it back on. That to me was an extraordinary example of a resilient storage array. Built like a tank back then.

With the density of today’s new storage systems, I am not sure the 308 bullet trick would actually work anymore, but it’s not for the lack of trying. There is an older Computerworld article from back in 2005 when IBM was actually planning on engineering a true bulletproof storage subsystem. It never came out as a real product though, but I am sure they learned a lot from trying. Today, if there were a couple of systems using erasure coded disk methods, it may be possible that the next marketing video may be blowing up an entire data center while the applications seamlessly still chug along! Technology actually is the one thing that does get faster, better, and cheaper over time!

Happy Halloween, and stay safe out there!

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