Wing Lung Bank has completed an overhaul of its storage infrastructure to a high-speed storage area network but it is re-evaluating further information technology investment due to economic constraints. The storage upgrade includes a disaster-recovery installation and is part of a three-year revamp of its core retail banking system started by IBM in 2001 on a HK$100 million budget. Wing Lung assistant general manager Alice Wong Ngar-lai said the revamp marked the last critical item on a list of priority IT upgrades to improve efficiency and aim for zero downtime. She said: 'What comes after are the 'nice-to-haves', such as implementing a sophisticated customer relationship management system.' A storage-area network, or SAN, is a high-speed network, on fibre channel in Wing Lung's case, connecting different kinds of storage devices, such as tape libraries and disk arrays. These devices can be shared by all users, regardless of location or operating systems. Wing Lung's SAN holds two terabytes of data, which can scale up to 32 terabytes. A terabyte is about a thousand gigabytes. Ms Wong said the SAN was designed to scale up because of the information deluge the bank had been collecting since it implemented a very basic customer information collection method along with its internet banking deployment. 'There was a need to upgrade our storage requirements not only for backup purposes but there was a need to make the system more efficient,' she said. Wing Lung's old storage infrastructure was based on a traditional server-attached storage model. Servers or standalone NAS (network-attached storage) devices would be added when storage capacity needed to be increased, said Jeremy Mak, IT head at Wing Lung. Because a SAN created a pool of storage that could be shared by multiple servers, the speed of information access was trebled, said Mr Mak. According to Mr Mak, Wing Lung compared options from a number of vendors, including EMC and IBM. It finally picked Hitachi Data System's HDS Lightning 9970 and SilkWorm 3800 Fibre Channel fabric switches from Brocade Communications. 'After a series of comparison, we find that HDS can provide us the most cost-effective and suitable solution. They also guaranteed results. The cutover and transition to the new system took just two weekends and downtime was minimal,' said Ms Wong. Mr Mak said: 'We are already migrating our storage on open servers to the SAN platform, as well as most new applications or solutions as a part of the bank's expansion.' With the SAN in place, the next logical step in the IT revamp is to deploy a customer relationship management (CRM) and data warehousing system. 'The CRM we have today is very limited but we are trying to build up our CRM and personalisation engine slowly,' said Ms Wong. She said the prolonged economic downturn has caused the bank to revise some of its spending priorities. 'There are economic issues to consider, so we don't see CRM as a top spending priority at this point,' said Ms Wong.