UWO charts storage path past tape

The University of Western Ontario will move to the next version of EMC’s Legato NetWorker product in the first half of next year, following a successful move from a legacy in tape storage to a disk-to-disk environment.

The London, Ont.-based postsecondary institution has been using Networker, a backup and recovery tool EMC gained through its acquistion of Legato two years ago, to store 25TB of information a month from a range of Oracle and MS SQL databases between 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day. The school operates a distributed, direct-attached storage-to-server environment with more than 300 Unix, Linux, Windows, Macintosh and NetWare-based departmental servers.

Denis Regnier, Western’s associate director of technical support, said day-to-day performance issues led the university to seek out a way to avoid the bottlenecks associated with tape storage.

“What we were experiencing were a number of tape failures — tape locked in the drive,” he said. “We’re backing up when the lights are out. Things like that would happen, and we weren’t meeting our service levels. We were missing our windows.”

Western now stages everything to disk and keeps it three to seven days, Regnier said. Once data has been put it on disk, immediately a clone is stored offsite. EMC recently released NetWorker version 7.3, which adds increased backup flexibility, including enhanced retention policies and target sharing.

Albert Poole, director of professional services and support at EMC reseller DigiDyne in Montreal, said users are increasingly attracted to disk storage for its quicker recovery times.

“When you’re using disk for initial backup, you can use higher-quality disk, but archive on lower-quality disk,” he said. “This is something EMC has been pushing really, really hard since it bought Legato.”

Although moving away from tape has been a huge improvement, Regnier said Western still needs to look at alternative ways of segregating its data, either through archiving or mirroring or some other strategy.

“The growth is a little intimidating. I feel that we’re starting to reach some sort of threshold that we need to come up with and rethink backup,” he said. “In trying to economize on the labour of backup, the volumes are getting to be staggering. People are backing up one or 2TB at a time. The consequences of that are significant.”

Western’s centralized repository consists of Unix-based servers, Nexsan disk and StorageTek silos. The university has one full-time person dedicated to backups and another that also does some backup work, Regnier said.

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