Backing up data has been a burden on IT practitioners since technology was first installed in a business. And for most companies, backing up means regularly (one hopes it is regular) copying corporate data onto a tape system and hoping it never has to be restored.
There are, naturally, other options to consider in the backup game, but how many companies are prepared to spend more money than absolutely necessary on something they hope never to use? Backup as always been considered a 'necessary evil' and a 'grudge purchase'. And let us not mention the time taken to backup gigabytes or even terabytes of data every day - what does a company that needs to operate 24x7 do?
Models such as disk-to-disk-to-tape have been devised to take advantage of increases in the speed and reliability of technology, but the problem still remained. However, there are other reliable and scalable options available.
In a white paper titled Experiencing Data De-Duplication: Improving Efficiency and Reducing Capacity Requirements, the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) notes: "Today, disk-based data protection solutions, such as virtual tape libraries (VTLs), are widely used by organisations of all types and sizes, and ESG expects adoption to continue to increase over the next 12 to 24 months. In fact, in a recent ESG Research survey, 32% of respondents said they already use VTL for backup operations and another 32% said they plan to implement the technology within two years."
The research group does warn that, while VTL is able to meet the needs of today's enterprises, the increasing data volumes, regulatory or corporate governance problems pose an additional problem. These issues come in the form of forcing companies to keep more data online for longer, shrinking backup windows or access to data that would have been put out to pasture in days gone by.
Enter data de-duplication
ESG says it believes data de-duplication will be 'one of this decade's most important new data protection technologies'.
Data de-duplication changes the data protection game by making "disk-based backup and remote backup and replication much more efficient than it is today. In fact, ESG expects data de-duplication to drive interest in and adoption of disk-based backup solutions, including VTLs, for the simple reason that it increases the value proposition of these technologies."
Furthermore, the group's research shows that while cost is the primary obstacle to disk-based backup adoption, data de-duplication 'lowers associated disk costs by reducing back-end disk capacity requirements'.
And it is in this arena that Quantum is leading the field.
The DXi-Series disk backup and replication appliances use Quantum's patented data de-duplication technology to expand the amount of backup data users can retain on fast-recovery RAID systems by 10 to 50 times. The result is a cost-effective way for IT departments to store backup data on disk for months instead of days, providing high speed, reliable restores, increasing available data recovery points, and reducing media management. For disaster recovery in distributed environments, the DXi-Series appliances make automated, WAN replication practical by dramatically reducing the bandwidth required to move backup data securely between sites.
ESG notes that doing data de-duplication the Quantum way (as it is being ingested by the appliance) ensures better performance and data fidelity. In addition, it says, "Quantum is the first vendor to ship an appliance that does both data de-duplication and hardware-based data compression. By de-duplicating data and then compressing it, Quantum makes optimal use of disk capacity, further reducing associated disk costs and maximising WAN bandwidth for remote replication."
Supporting this position, Taneja Group adds: "Quantum has been quietly strengthening its position in the data protection market via internal development, acquisition, and pragmatic leveraging of its technology, as is evident in the area of data de-duplication. Through its acquisition of ADIC in August 2006, Quantum now has fundamental intellectual property in data de-duplication technology developed by Rocksoft, which had earlier been acquired by ADIC. While on the surface this was just one element of a much broader deal, we believe its implications go much deeper than what is visible so far."
DXi7500: The DXi7500 is the enterprise disk backup solution that integrates data de-duplication and replication technology to connect backup and DR protection across distributed corporate environments The DXi7500 disk-based backup appliance uses Quantum's patented data de-duplication technology to increase disk capacities by 10 to 50 times, and make WAN replication a practical, cost-effective part of disaster recovery planning. Scalable to 240 TB raw capacity, the DXi7500 is designed for larger sites and corporate data centres.
* Up to 240 TB raw capacity.
* Data de-duplication and multisite remote replication compatible with DXi3500 and DXi5500 models.
* High performance (up to 8 TB per hour) provides enterprise scale protection.
* High availability architecture eliminates all single points of failure.
The DXi7500 leverages Quantum's patented data de-duplication technology to dramatically increase the role that disk can play in the protection of critical data. With the DXi5500 solution, users can retain 10 to 50 times more backup data on fast recovery disk than with conventional arrays.
Users can transmit backup data from a single or multiple remote sites equipped with any other DXi-Series model to a central, secure location to reduce or eliminate media handling. DXi-Series replication is asynchronous, automated, and it operates as a background process.
Up to 240 TB native capacity, 8 TB/hour performance with active-active architecture to eliminate all single points of failure. Policy-based de-duplication lets users select Quantum's unique in-line or post-processing techniques. Presentations include both VTL (Fibre Channel and iSCSI) and NAS (CIFS and NFS). Integrated tape creation writes physical media directly over dedicated Fibre Channel connections, and supports ISV direct tape creation, including NetBackup's Direct-to-Tape. This is a feature that makes the Quantum offering different from any other VTL in the market today. The movement of data from the disk to the tape is done totally independant of the Backup Application.
Quantum's DXi-Series solutions dramatically expand the role that disk can play in corporate data protection strategies. They retain 10 to 50 times more backup data than conventional disk system, and allow users to leverage remote replication as a DR tool, reducing or eliminating media handling.
DXi5500: Quantum's DXi5500 provides fast and reliable backup and restore and makes WAN replication a practical, cost-effective part of disaster recovery planning. The DXi5500 is designed for larger sites and mid-range data centres with up to 11TB of local data to protect.
* Up to 540 TB of backup retention disk capacity.
* High backup performance of up to 800 GB per hour provides enterprise scale protection.
* Multisite replication options for WAN-based remote replication.
Quantum's DXi5500 solution is an integrated appliance that is easy to install and use with all leading backup applications. It provides best-in-class performance and flexible, easy-to-use interface options including NAS, virtual tape library or mixed presentations along with Fibre Channel and iSCSI connectivity.
With DXi5500 replication, users can transmit data from a single site or multiple sites to a central location. DXi5500 replication is asynchronous, automated, and it operates as a background process.
This system is also an integrated appliance with an intuitive graphical user interface and two presentation modes that make it easy to install, share, and manage. A backup NAS interface allows users to attach a DXi5500 appliance to any Ethernet network and share it easily between multiple media servers. For larger, SAN environments, a virtual tape library interface (Fibre Channel or iSCSI) gives users enterprise performance and lets them use standard tape library presentations.
DXi3500: Quantum's DXi3500 provides fast and reliable backup and restore and they make WAN replication a practical, cost-effective part of disaster recovery planning. The DXi3500 is designed for sites with from 1,2 to 4,2 TB of local data to protect.
* Up to 210 TB of backup retention capacity.
* High backup performance of up to 290 GB per hour provides enterprise scale protection, even for tight backup windows.
* Multisite replication options for WAN-based remote replication.
Quantum's DXi3500 solution is an integrated appliance that is easy to install and use with all leading backup applications. It provide best-in-class performance and flexible, easy-to-use interface options including NAS, virtual tape library or mixed presentations along with Fibre Channel and iSCSI connectivity.
With DXi3500 replication, users can transmit data from a single site or multiple sites to a central location. DXi3500 replication is asynchronous, automated, and it operates as a background process.
Furthermore, the DXi3500 is an integrated appliance with an intuitive graphical user interface and two presentation modes that make it easy to install, share, and manage. A backup NAS interface allows users to attach a DXi3500 appliance to any Ethernet network and share it easily between multiple media servers. For larger, SAN environments, a virtual tape library interface (Fibre Channel or iSCSI) gives users enterprise performance and lets them use standard tape library presentations.
Quantum's DXi-Series are a cost-effective way for IT departments to store backup data on disk for months instead of days, providing high speed, reliable restores and increasing both recovery points and your disaster recovery options.
Quantum in the real world: MTN Group reduces backup window by 79%
MTN Group is a leading provider of communications services, offering cellular network access and business solutions. They are listed on the JSE Securities Exchange South Africa (JSE) with a reported 31,5 million subscribers across 21 African and Middle East countries.
MTN South Africa (MTNSA) operates through MTN Network Operator, MTN Service Provider and MTN Network Solutions. MTNSA has approximately 10,4-million subscribers. The company's national GSM network is one of the largest of its type in the world with more that 4500 base station sites covering 19 200 km of road and 900 000 km of land. The network provides GSM access to 96% of South Africa's population.
Explosive growth in the communications services industry since MTN's entry into the market in 1994 has seen the group invest more than R24-billion in information and telecommunications infrastructure. Towards the end of 2005, Mike Styer, of Infrastructure Planning and Design initiated a project aimed at upgrading data backup and restore systems for the MTNSA data centres in Johannesburg.
"MTN's highly successful operations in the country, particularly over the past five years, pushed our tapebased backup requirements to service an environment that has grown from 50 TB of data to more than 1000 TB," he said.
"While the group had never suffered a loss and faced no material risk in terms of data backup and disaster recovery planning, compound growth rates up to 50% per year and the need to meet stringent corporate governance standards, made it imperative that we address our data backup and recovery requirements for at least the next 10 years," said Styer.
Styer said that an in-depth review of the existing backup infrastructure showed that while the incumbent supplier was possibly capable of keeping up with increasing capacity demands, there were clear indications that the underlying technology was reaching its limitations.
"Our analysis showed that if we continued to invest in the current installed technology, the relationship between meeting capacity growth demands and cost, even in the short term, was prohibitive. It was also established that even if these capacity to cost ratios were acceptable, it was unlikely to have significant benefits in productivity improvements because of the limitations of the older technology," he said.
Styer, with the support of the IS delivery team at MTN set out to define the criteria that would decide the group's backup and data storage strategy for the future.
"We decided from the outset that the technology platform would dictate our strategic planning and play a major role in deciding immediate and future investments. "After exhaustive investigations, it was decided to standardise on LT0-3 as this technology offers by far the best roadmap for the next 10 years or more. Although other technologies were considered, investigations into the local market also confirmed that LT0-3 has a strong and growing base of users," he said.
After selecting the tape technology, Styer and the MTN team began to assess the capabilities of all vendors offering LT0-3. "We evaluated vendors based on wide-ranging criteria using independent industry research and reports produced by industry analysts. We paid particular attention to proven market leadership and the worldwide installed base of satisfied customers and comparable reference sites."
Besides listing criteria used in the group's preliminary research, such as the worldwide installed base and proven market leadership in LTO-3, the tender also called for the successful supplier to meet, among others, the following:
* The ability to meet or exceed specified performance benchmarks.
* Cost-effectiveness of the overall solution.
* Proven track record in 'best-practice' methodologies associated with issues such project management, systems integration, installation and commissioning services etc.
* The ability to support the roll-out of the solution.
* The ability to work with and support Symantec (VERITAS NetBackup) as the primary software backup management solution used by MTN.
* High level of skills, certification and experience in the data storage market.
In addition to the technical specifications, tender respondents were also required to conform to the MTN Group's preferential procurement policy through proof of commitment to genuine black economic empowerment (BEE).
Styer said an obvious and very clear winner emerged after the tender had closed and all proposals had been subjected to the group's comprehensive procurement process. Of the local suppliers who integrate the LTO-3 technology into their tape libraries, Quantum Africa emerged as the vendor of choice.
"Quantum Africa, the black-owned company that represents Quantum on an exclusive basis in South Africa as a market-leading multinational vendor, teamed up with local certified business partners to put forward a proposal that made it exceptionally easy to award the contract," he said. "Not only did Quantum meet or exceed all requirements set in our tender, but the local company demonstrated an outstanding level of willingness to help MTN achieve its backup and DR objectives."
The hardware platforms supplied by Quantum included two Quantum Scalar i2000 enterprise-class tape libraries with 2000 slots and 40 LTO-3 drives in each.
One Quantum Scalar i2000 library was installed at each of the MTN data centres. Nine partitions were set up with each partition being allocated drives connected to various servers over a storage area network fabric.
The project called for the total replacement of existing backup hardware while at the same time handling the migration of all backup data and ensuring minimal disruptions to established backup and restore routines.
"Installation went exceptionally well, despite several requests made by us for last-minute, unplanned changes," said Styer.
"The professionalism and skills of the Quantum Africa engineering team, not only related to their own product but also a heterogeneous operating system environment that incorporates Unix and Microsoft, helped ensure that the project was carried out on schedule and within budget," he added.
Styer said he has no doubt whatsoever that the decision to award the supplier contract to Quantum Africa is already paying off in terms of achieving significant and measurable benefits. "Our disaster recovery window has been dramatically reduced. Backups that were taking up to 14 hours to complete are now being carried out and verified in less than three hours.
"The ease of manageability of all back up processes has improved beyond our expectations to provide significant productivity gains in a number of other areas and operations in the data centre," he said.
Styer added that Quantum's performance associated with the provision of after-sales support in areas such as warranty and technical support proved to be outstanding. "This commitment to service, backed by a 24x7 maintenance contract provides us with further proof that we made the right choice," he said.
Styer is confident that MTN's new Quantum backup infrastructure is ideally positioned to address group requirement for at least the next 10 years.
"Part of our current planning is the move away from a totally shared backup environment to an architecture based on dedicated systems. This move will enable us to address issues that are specific to the cellular telephony industry as well as the management of data associated with any business enterprise," he said.
"More than 80% of the capacity demand, that is growing at between 25 and 50% a year, can be attributed to legislation that compels us to store and secure all subscriber call data records (CDRs). We have a statutory obligation to store CDRs in their raw format and then make them available to appropriate authorities in an ASCI format that facilitates transcription.
"Our new data backup and management infrastructure is also ideally suited to meeting the demands of what many other organisations outside of the cellular telephony industry would describe as their total requirement - the ability to backup and restore data generated by business policy growth and the more routine business applications such as billing systems.
"At MTN, routine business applications account for no more than 15 to 20% of our capacity and growth, which are now comfortably accommodated in the new Quantum systems," he said. Styer is confident that the relationship with Quantum will develop into a long and successful partnership.