L.L.Bean overhauls its backup process


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Phase 3: Implementation
The implementation of the new backup process proved to be the simplest part. It consisted of acquiring the new hardware and then migrating the nodes to be backed up.

The migration task was simplified by the initial assessment. "During the assessment, we listed all the nodes that needed to be backed up," says Rideout. The team assigned each node--a total of 178--to a system administrator. Once the hardware was in place, the team proceeded to move three to five nodes each day. The whole process took approximately three months.

L.L.Bean ended up doing very little actual moving of previously backed up data. "We would switch a node and it would back up to the new system," says Rideout. Based on its previous retention policies, it could remove the old backup data in 90 days or 180 days. As that data was removed, L.L.Bean freed the tape in the ATL for mainframe HSM backup. "Most of the migration was just attrition," notes Rideout. Simply by redirecting nodes to the SATA disk and backing them up as the team normally would, over time, they would have all the backed up data in the new system.

The mainframe implementation required the most attention; the team had to implement new tools like TimeFinder, but the implementation wasn't disruptive or difficult. By August 2006, the new backup and recovery process was fully implemented and operating without a hitch, 11 months from start to finish, according

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to Rideout. More importantly, she says, the "backup and recovery performance exceeded the criteria we had set." This success contrasted with a previous effort. "We attempted to do something like this on a smaller scale three to four years ago and we just couldn't get it off the ground," says Rideout.

Looking back, it seemed so easy, but Rideout had learned a few lessons from the previous effort that ensured success this time around. "The first time we lacked a corporate sponsor," she says. This time, she had the vice president of information systems lined up from the beginning. She also insisted that a project manager be dedicated to the project.

Finally, the success of the assessment phase--the team's ability to gather detailed data--paved the way for everything that followed. The assessment data enabled the team to develop better retention policies and alerted them to the looming tape crunch.

In terms of performance, L.L.Bean has reduced retail database backup from 7.5 hours to two hours. In addition, file-server restore has been reduced from 10 hours to 1.5 hours.

Buoyed by the project's success, the L.L.Bean storage team doesn't intend to stop at backup. "We have all this SATA capacity. I'd love to look at archiving," says Rideout. L.L.Bean currently doesn't archive email, but with 34TB of SATA capacity, Rideout thinks it should.

This was first published in April 2007

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