Feature

L.L.Bean overhauls its backup process

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The outdoor apparel and equipment outfitter moves IBM Tivoli Storage Manager from its mainframe to Linux servers, and adds SATA disk to its backup environment.


Sandy Rideout, a storage engineer at L.L.Bean Inc. in Freeport, ME, had become increasingly unhappy with the outdoor gear retailer's storage backup and restore environment. The system was built around IBM Corp.'s Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) and ran on the mainframe under z/OS, but was backing up more than 240 open-systems nodes--Windows, AIX, Linux, Sun and NetWare.

Rideout had long suspected mainframe constraints were slowing down the backup, and things came to a head in the summer of 2005. "We had instances of excruciating, long restores," she recalls. "In some cases, not all the data was recovered." Open-systems backups were a particular concern.

The problems propelled L.L.Bean's IT group into a three-phase initiative to overhaul its entire approach to mainframe and open-systems backup and recovery. The project took a team of four storage and systems engineers (with some early help from an outside consultant) less than a year and came in at considerably less than $1 million.

On average, the company was backing up 560GB each night (890GB at peak). It was running 35TB of disk storage and 1,550 Magstar tapes under TSM. And going forward, L.L.Bean expected to grow considerably.

L.L.Bean's mainframe backup had its own problems. "There were no consistent point-in-time backups,"

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says Rideout, adding that "we had different backup processes in place and ended up running multiple backups of the same data." Compounding the problems, applications were running backups on their own. Critical production data was being replicated synchronously via EMC Corp.'s Symmetrix Remote Data Facility (SRDF) to remote data centers for business continuity--but that was the only data being fully protected in that way.

The company was running two Amdahl Corp. plug-compatible mainframes that were subsequently replaced with the IBM eServer zSeries 900 (z/900). Constrained mainframe resources weren't the only culprit. The problem, Rideout suspected, was a fragmented, disjointed and uncoordinated backup and recovery process.

Rideout proposed a project to establish an enterprise-wide approach to backup and recovery of all centrally stored corporate data. At the least, it would improve efficiency, allow greater consistency and reliability, and produce cost savings. With the summer of 2005 experience fresh in their minds, IT management agreed. After immediately securing the sponsorship of L.L.Bean's vice president of information systems, Rideout began a three-phase project--assessment, policy and recommendations, and implementation--to revamp the backup and recovery system.

This was first published in April 2007

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