Dec 27

Moving On From Backup Tape Not Only Necessary, But Critical

Posted in Computer Stuff

The numbers are dizzying. Ten million customers being serviced by 49,000 employees in 1,400 branch offices in more than 30 countries.

All amassing data faster than dot-coms are crashing on the stock market. This is what Dan Ledgerwood had to contend with.

No one might have been happier than Ledgerwood, senior storage management analyst at the Royal Bank of Canada in Toronto, to have gained an hour when the clocks went back. For more than a year, he has been trying to solve the bank’s host tape issues. And the clock is ticking.

There is nothing unique behind the reasons for the move to a virtual tape solution. Ledgerwood says the existing technology is simply getting old. The Memorex ATL tape libraries, he says, are circa. 1990 and were wearing out and becoming difficult to maintain.

In the case of the outgoing, two-year-old IBM Magstar hardware, he says reliability proved to be disappointing.

If the reasons for the change weren’t surprising, the same can be said of what Ledgerwood was looking for. He says he wanted a solution which would address the bank’s current needs, as well as accommodate any future consolidations or mergers.

Last fall, Ledgerwood began the process of installing a virtual tape solution at Royal’s data centres in Guelph, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

The operation was shut down until March thanks to the Y2K freeze. Eight months later, a deadline looms.

“We have one out of the four centres where the technology has to be removed in November and the other three centres are in January,” Ledgerwood says.

StorageTek’s Virtual Storage Manager and 9310 Powderhorns (automated cartridge system) will replace Memorex ATL while the 9840 tape drive will fill the gap left by the departing IBM equipment.

Of the choice to go with virtual tape, Ledgerwood says: “There is not much else out there in order to do this. Your alternative is to put it onto disk and allow HSM (hierarchical storage management) to control it. We’re at our capacity with HSM.

“In a month we are looking at application tape mounts — that’s non-HSM, we use HSM ABARS (aggregate backup and recovery system) to do our recovery processing backup and that’s totally separate — so this is just regular application backup. ABARS we are looking at about 3,600 GB in Guelph, 13,000 GB in Toronto, 9,000 GB in Montreal and 10,000 GB in Vancouver.”

But is storing 35,600 GB a month on disc more expensive than virtual tape?

“I would say it is because when you take into account the MIPS (million instructions per second) that you have to purchase in order to do the HSM processing in order to manage that tape,” Ledgerwood says.

Royal adopted a three-phase approach to the migration. Ledgerwood says the first phase is to implement silos in the virtual tape solution plus two phases to replace the Magstar technology.

This kind of project is not without challenges. “We are running multiple vendors and each vendor has their own ability to alter allocation and that has been a struggle for us,” he says.

“It’s an individual issue that people have to deal with and they have to understand their environment and that is one of the reasons that I believe it has taken us longer than lets says and existing StorageTek customer to implement the virtual tape solution.

“We had to step back because we tried to roll a lot quicker and ran into allocation issues,” Ledgerwood says. “Other customers would (experience it) if they were trying to do this.”

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