Commission cuts backup time with SAN

Commission cuts backup time with SAN

After running out of disk space on its Windows 2000 servers, the Australian Tourist Commission (ATC) realised it had outgrown its direct-attached storage environment and needed to implement a storage area network (SAN).

The commission's information technology and telecommunications manager Allan Woods said a telling sign that a SAN was required was when overnight backups began running into business hours the next day.

When solutions partner Netforce recommended attaching a StorageTek L40 tape library to a gigabit Ethernet backend, Woods said the commission took its first step towards networked storage.

"When we ran out of disk space on our Windows servers we could have replaced the disk subsystems which would have been cheaper, but it would have been logistically complex and forced additional system downtime that we couldn't afford," he said.

One logistical problem was that many of the servers were leased.

"To throw in extra drives would have been a paperwork nightmare; what would we do when the servers went back? So the SAN option was far more attractive," he said.

"We were also undergoing a consolidation of server equipment and the main server for file and print was going back to the leasing company.

Attaching a new server and copying data from one disk array to another would have taken a couple of days, with the systems isolated from the network."

With 220 staff in 14 offices around the world, Woods said any downtime is difficult to justify.

Around half a terabyte of StorageTek D-series disk was selected over other vendor pitches largely, Woods said, because he had already used StorageTek.

"We had a good experience with the StorageTek L40 tape library before, especially when compared with our previous tape library, which had an unbelievable number problems," he said.

Using the SANtricity storage management software shipped with the D-series disk, Woods said the commission was able to span multiple drives into single volumes, which couldn't be done with direct-attached SCSI disk arrays.

Further reduction in the backup window was achieved when the L40 was disconnected from the gigabit Ethernet network and attached to the faster Fibre Channel-based SAN.

"Backups are now performed in around six hours; before this deployment it took more than 16 hours," Woods said.

The commission is now considering a range of new initiatives including improved disaster recovery and increasing availability of IT systems. "One possibility is clustering our servers including Web development servers used to create content for our portal which promotes Australia as a tourism destination," he said.

The commission has around 730 gigabytes of raw data; around half a terabyte is available on the SAN.

With storage volumes growing at some 20 to 30 per cent per year, Woods said there are plans to expand this to around one terabyte and connect additional servers to the SAN.

"Our content management system for example may be integrated into the SAN later," he said "The options are now available to us at minimal additional cost."

Woods said the commission is also planning to implement a document management system later this year and one of the design goals is to automate compliance with government regulations for national archives.

"While the SAN was not considered as part of this system, it has offered us opportunities that were not foreseen at the time. As requirements change we can see further benefits in centralising our storage," he said.

With the commission highly reliant on technology, Woods said it is a real bonus to be able to move disk volumes between servers with the click of a mouse to gain real time savings.

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