MasterCard's journey toward storage integration

Coming from a multivendor, direct-attached storage architecture, MasterCard works toward mainframe, server storage interoperability.

MasterCard International Inc. is in the middle of a three-phase storage technology rollout aimed at integrating new storage products based on features and price while relying on partnering agreements between EMC Corp., its primary storage network vendor, and other vendors for interoperability.

The Purchase, N.Y.-based financial services company's strategy is to manage its storage not as a separate entity but as an integrated tool as part of its enterprise network, says Jim Hull, vice president of engineering services. So in February, the company installed EMC's ControlCenter/Open Edition in its St. Louis data center to provide server connectivity, volume-access control and a view of all networked storage environments from one location.

"Our goal is to have all the different components, whether it's tape from [Storage Technology Corp. in Louisville, Colo.] in different silos and/or Sun and/or IBM and/or EMC to all plug and play and work together," says Hull.

The EMC Core

Ed Smart, vice president of support services at MasterCard, says the company started out by installing EMC Symmetrix storage arrays and then began building storage-area network (SAN) islands during the past few months. Sometime next year, MasterCard will finish bridging those islands "so the systems can get the storage regardless of where they are," he says.

Using Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC's AutoIS framework and shared application programming interfaces (API), MasterCard has been able to customize its storage network by applying partner vendors' products. For example, MasterCard used EMC's Common Array Manager to attach two IBM Enterprise Storage Servers to its mainframes.

MasterCard also uses EMC's ESN Manager to control its 130TB SAN, which includes Fibre Channel switches from Brocade Communications Systems Inc., McData Corp. and QLogic Corp. MasterCard's storage arrays include 10 EMC Symmetrix boxes, one EMC Clariion server and a Compaq StorageWorks array.

However, EMC shares only a limited number of APIs, and it shares those only with its vendor partners. So while you may be able to discover a Hewlett-Packard Co. disk array on your EMC-managed network, you might not be able to manage the volumes on it through a common interface. Still, MasterCard considered EMC the best choice.

"Right now in the marketplace, we found EMC is the leader in all those components, and we're using that to drive the IBMs of the world to come and meet with us and plug and play applications in the environment we have," says Joe Foster, MasterCard's storage administrator.

Weaving in the Mainframe

Next year, MasterCard plans to install IBM z900 series mainframes and move away from IBM's Escon -- IBM's previous fiber-optic channel standard -- and begin using FiCon (Fiber Connectivity), a high-speed I/O interface for mainframe computer connections to storage devices.

"By that time, we'll be able to deploy a storage-area-network-type connectivity to the mainframe, and I can find a few connections from the mainframe to many servers into the storage farm," says Joe Foster, MasterCard's storage administrator.

Still, Smart says he believes that EMC, IBM and other industry leaders need to begin sharing APIs more freely and that it's the end user's responsibility to pressure them to do that and to continue "pushing these vendors to come up with standards."

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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