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VTL remedies backup woes

VTLs remedy tape bottlenecks...

A backup environment is a delicate thing whose overall fitness depends on the health of its individual members.

At Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), a consortium of Boston-area hospitals, the backup ecosystem was grossly out of balance. Throwing it out of sync was the tape library--an aging six-drive, 60-slot LTO-1 model that was responsible for backing up approximately 100 Windows and Linux servers with about 20TB of data among them.

Because much of CHA's data is sensitive patient records, many of the systems require daily full backups. That meant CHA was doing backup 24/7, leaving no time for upgrades, much less unplanned downtime. When it came time to do a restore, CHA would have to pause its backups altogether.

The system was generating so many tapes that CHA didn't have room in its data center to store them all, forcing them to ship the tapes to an alternate data center a few city blocks away where they could also perform restores.

Furthermore, because primary backups were being performed 24 hours a day, CHA couldn't reliably make auxiliary copies of its backup tapes to ship to an offsite disaster recovery facility, explains Dan Doherty, IT systems operations manager. "We didn't have a complete set [of auxiliary backup tapes], and there were some concerns about their reliability," he says.

Replacing the tape library was the most obvious solution to CHA's ills, but Doherty also wanted to investigate disk-based backup. In the end, CHA settled on a virtual tape library (VTL) from Sepaton.

Since putting the Sepaton ES2100 in place, "its been like night and day," Doherty reports. So far, he has migrated approximately 70% of his servers from backing up to the tape library to the VTL, because "I don't want to do it wholesale and come into a disaster."

The tape library is no longer the bottleneck, and the backup idle time has been upped from zero to approximately five hours per day, leaving Doherty sufficient time to do restores and upgrades.

Doherty expects his backup window to shrink further as he completes migrating clients to the VTL and upgrades older backup servers. The Sepaton device, combined with improved performance monitoring in CHA's CommVault Galaxy backup software, does a good job of pointing those systems out. Before, "we had a hunch they were the problem, but we weren't sure," he says.

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