Moving backup off the mainframe


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And the winners are
We investigated a large number of software vendors, paying particular attention to those with which we had existing relationships and to industry leaders for stability. The product list included SyncSort Backup Express, Veritas NetBackup and Tantia Network Storage Manager. Only two vendors--Veritas and IBM--met all our criteria and our requirements for reliable support and financial stability. Of those two, based on cost, we chose IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM), the successor to ADSM.

Several alternatives to the existing drives were considered, most of which were either technically insufficient or were highly expensive overkill. For example, StorageTek's L180 library offered more than enough capacity, but was out of our price range. Upgrading our mainframe's existing IBM 3494 robotic library with its small 2GB cartridges also proved to be too costly.

Of all the tape formats, we standardized on LTO mainly because it is a non-proprietary technology. Although there have been some incompatibilities in the early implementations of LTO specifications, we believed that market pressure will make vendors resolve the problems.

Two LTO drives would have provided only a slight increase in throughput over the eight IBM 3490 mainframe drives. However, three LTO drives provide a 68% throughput increase over the old configuration and a 25% edge over the initially proposed Exabyte

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8mm AME drives. Additional drives may yet be required as the open systems server farm grows. The same problem would have to be addressed regardless of the backup server platform. By using a smaller number of newer drives, our hardware maintenance costs were cut by more than half, from $18,000 to $7,230 annually.

Increased capacity
The increased tape capacity is one of the project's greatest benefits. The results have been dramatic. The LTO tapes have a compressed capacity of 200GB compared to our mainframe tapes' 2GB storage. While each new LTO tape costs about 15 times the price of its mainframe counterpart, the hundred-fold increase in capacity meant a dramatically lower media cost, from $4 per gigabyte to 60 cents per gigabyte. The number of onsite tapes went from 1,660 manually mounted to 19 in the robot. Only 16 tapes are needed for off-site disaster recovery copies.

One of the most important benefits of reducing the number of tapes is the reduction in labor required for the library maintenance and off-site backup. The operators only take and retrieve two to four tapes to and from the off-site vault each day. The effort needed to keep track of the tape cartridge inventory onsite was eliminated. The added work to track the off-site inventory is minimal. This also reduced the probability that cartridges will be misplaced.

After reviewing other LTO units, we purchased an IBM 3583 LTO library, which is essentially identical to the ADIC Scalar 100. IBM and ADIC cooperate in the manufacture of these units. The purchase was part of a larger arrangement encompassing a mainframe upgrade.

Our library came with 42 tape slots and a 12-slot I/O station for removing and recycling off-site tapes. The 8.2TB capacity of the LTO library will provide ample storage to triple our current open system production disk base. The LTO library only takes four sq. ft. of floor space and can operate in normal office temperatures and humidity. Replacing the mainframe drives freed 20 sq. ft. of valuable raised-floor real estate.

This was first published in March 2003

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