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Ten years ago, the Hobart Corporation, a commercial food equipment and service provider in Troy, OH, started to move applications off its mainframes to open systems platforms. We also needed to be able to backup and recover those systems. In 1993, the reliability and well-established procedures of the mainframe operations made it the obvious choice for open systems backup.
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Like many businesses at that time, IT consolidated numerous departmental LANs into an enterprise network, and took responsibility for its file and print servers. With that responsibility increasing, backup and recovery responsibilities grew.
Fast forward to 2000: The open system backups now occupied 1,660 mainframe tapes and kept eight tape drives spinning full time. The backup tape contained a total of 2TB of data. Just recycling the obsolete onsite tapes required dozens of operator mounts every day. The large tape inventory and high volume of mounts ate up a significant amount of operator time. The constant filing and retrieval also made lost tapes inevitable. We had a growing problem.
On the mainframe, the eight drives occupied two refrigerator-sized IBM tape drive units and an equally large controller unit. The seven-year-old drives weren't aging gracefully: Tape errors were becoming the norm rather than the exception, which interfered with the backup processing.
In addition, our management wanted us to install off-site disaster recovery, which under the present system was impossible. Why? On the mainframe, the group of backup tapes that should have been copied for storage off-site was larger than the number of available scratch tapes. This kept us from making use of the ADSTAR Distributed Storage Manager's (ADSM) Disaster Recovery Manager feature, which inventories tapes off site and in transit.
Searching for a better way
We began investigating the costs of moving backups from the mainframe to a Unix platform with newer tape technologies. Our first proposal recommended that a new robotic tape library be purchased for the existing IBM's RS/6000-S7A server to support all of the open systems servers. In round numbers, this proposal included an additional expenditure of $16,600 for the current year and savings of $28,000 every year thereafter.
Because the RS/6000-S7A was only lightly accessed by a handful of people, it was definitely underutilized. The server almost never used more than two of its eight processors, and its 8GB of memory would be more than adequate to handle additional processing. Most open system backup processing is done at night, so the existing interactive Oracle users wouldn't be affected. And moving the backups to the RS/6000-S7A would free mainframe cycles for crucial batch work.
The eight mainframe drives had a total throughput capacity of 192GB/hour. The proprietary tape library--which was initially proposed--would have just two drives for throughput of 216GB/hour. Management requested a full review of all open system backup hardware, software and procedures to ensure the best long-term solution.
The review starts
When the review started--in addition to the mainframe backups--we also used Veritas' Backup Exec, Computer Associates' ARCserve software and an Exabyte 8mm tape autoloader to back up the operating systems on Netware and Microsoft Windows servers. By contrast, most enterprise backup solutions are designed to protect only user data and assume that the client machines have a working operating system and backup agent installed. While our current configuration was taken into account, all tape technologies and backup software products were to be considered fair game.
It was imperative that the project save money. Any change had to ensure that the technology chosen would continue to be enhanced in the future to accommodate expansion of our open systems environment and would have continued vendor support. Potential vendors' financial stability and their ability to provide local/timely service were also weighed as a factor in both the hardware and software evaluations.
The platform used for the backup server had to be robust enough to handle a 25GB nightly load from 40 clients. The backup software had to support NetWare, AIX, Windows NT and Windows 2000. We also required clients for any operating system that we may support in the near future, such as Linux or AS/400. Also a requirement was support for agents--which greatly reduce the nightly load by only backing up changes--for DB2, Oracle, MS-SQL, and Lotus Domino.
This was first published in March 2003