Replacing bulky tape storage SYSTEMS with virtual tape technology has allowed Xwave to prolong the life of its data centre by several years, according to one of its senior technical analysts.

Craig Piercey, who works with Xwave’s mainframe support group in St. John’s, Nfld., says the company

has reduced its physical tape storage requirements by 73 per cent, which in turn has translated into a real estate savings of 600 sq. ft. of data centre space. Tape storage was taking up an additional 15 per cent of data centre space each year, he says.

“”Besides software and HR, real estate’s your next highest expense,”” says Piercey.

The space Xwave has been able to save can be immediately turned around and used to make a profit, but free space means adding more servers.

“”Our server farm is growing,”” says Piercey. “”It basically freed space up to install more server racks. Every time we put a server in, it’s new revenue.”” Tape storage is static and provides no additional revenue as it accumulates.

Xwave saw the benefits of moving to virtual tape almost immediately after it completed the project just over a year ago. The company deployed Computer Associates International Inc.’s Brightstor CA-vtape and removed the need for thousands of physical tape media.

“”We went down to sending 100-plus tapes a day to 14 tapes,”” Piercey says. “”It was very inexpensive. The return on investment was rapid. In 90 days, we (saw) outstanding results. Practically all physical tape for our clients in our data centre is pretty much nil. The only physical tape that exists today is actually the high-capacity storage.””

This is a typical scenario for virtual tape customers, says CA’s Brightstor product manager John Hill. “”Typically they want to get away from tape processing as much as they possibly can. They want to reduce storage cost, floor space, plus the tape handling.””

Xwave has also been able to reduce the manpower dedicated to tape management. “”You can imagine if you have to pick 100-plus tapes off the racks and then file them and check them. Now they have seven tapes in morning and seven tapes in the evening. It’s a matter of a minute or two now to do this work. It took a couple of hours previously,”” Piercey says.

The staff that were previously dedicated to labour-intensive tape management have been put to better use. “”They started doing much more high-tech stuff as opposed just picking and plucking tapes, boxing tapes and shifting and filing,”” he says.

For now, the old tapes are being stored in a warehouse. Once the data was transferred to the virtual environment, the tapes were cleaned or “”degouged”” and will eventually be disposed.

Despite the appeal of a virtual environment, physical tapes will be around for the foreseeable future, says Hill. “”It’ll be some time before it ever goes away. Folks want to get away from it, but there will always be a need for a physical back-up of data.””

Legislation such as PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) places strictures on how long companies should maintain data.

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