Article

Life sciences firm turns to disk-based backup

Kevin Komiega

In order to cure an out-of-control backup window and speed its time to data recovery, Beyond Genomics Inc. knew it had to find a faster alternative to traditional tape backup systems. To get the job done, the company took a risk and supplanted tape with disk-based backup technology from a startup.

Beyond Genomics is a Waltham, Mass.-based biotechnology company that uses its proprietary Systems Biology platforms to develop "novel therapeutics and biomarkers." In other words, the company measures biological samples and integrates the results with clinical information to help pharmaceutical companies find cures for diseases.

Needless to say, Beyond Genomics generates a large amount of data. The company says it is currently backing up around 9 TB of data on a regular basis. According to Raul Diaz, director of IT, backup was a chore that was taking longer and longer to complete.

"It was taking well over two days to do a full backup," he said.

Backup reliability and speed is more than just an internal issue for Beyond Genomics -- potential customers judge the IT infrastructure before they entrust their research data to the company.

"We have a state of the art tape solution, but we noticed we were missing the backup window," Diaz said. He wouldn't name which tape vendor he was using, but he said the next step would have been to upgrade to a more expensive tape system or look for an alternate solution.

Diaz's product search began

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in early 2003 and was exhaustive. Beyond Genomics wanted to deal with a big vendor and had four top storage companies pitch their products, but ultimately it was a startup called Sepaton Inc., Southborough, Mass., that won the deal. Diaz said that Sepaton, formerly named SANgate Systems, was "ahead of the game" in disk-based backup.

Beyond Genomics was hesitant to buy from a small vendor, but the company brought in Sepaton's S2100-ES Virtual Tape Library system for a trial run in December. The performance improvements blew Diaz away.

"They came in and installed it, and we were backing up data via NDMP within two hours. That's incredible when you're talking about a Fibre Channel solution," he said.

The S2100-ES Virtual Tape Library is an integrated disk backup and recovery system designed to make backups easier by eliminating the need for tape. Sepaton makes no secret of its philosophy on backup and recovery. One needs only to read the company's name in reverse to get the gist of their position on the "old way."

"We agreed as a group that we were impressed with technology and that committing to a young company and their technology was worth the risk," Diaz said. "We did our diligence and know where the other companies are with disk-based backup, but Sepaton had the best solution out there for the price."

Sepaton is by no means the only kid on the disk-based block. Advanced Digital Information Corp. has its Pathlight VX system and Quantum Corp.'s DX30 and DX100 backup products have been available for several months. But Diaz found what he was looking for with Sepaton -- a speedy Fibre Channel solution that wouldn't interrupt his existing network traffic. Beyond Genomics is now able to complete its backups in less than one day, and recovering data is now four times faster.

Tape hasn't left the building completely. Diaz said that the virtual tape library serves as his main backup system, with an LTO tape library earning its keep by storing incremental backups during the day. The long-term goal, according to Diaz, is to take his virtual tape library to a nearby co-location site for disaster recovery purposes.

"We're going to take that one extra step just to have that one full backup off-site that we could recover. To recover off of tape would just take that much longer," he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Kevin Komiega, news editor.

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