Since opening its doors in 1995, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas has been on a growth spurt. It expanded in 1999 and is now undergoing another expansion that will more than triple its current size. But it's not just the Hard Rock's footprint that has grown substantially. So has its data, and the time it takes to back it all up. In fact, it was taking Hard Rock's IT department more than 24 hours to do full backups, which had to be done once a week. The rest of the week was spent doing incremental backups, which was also time-consuming.
Early in 2009, however, Hard Rock did away with its existing tape-and-disk storage (Symantec's NetBackup backup and recovery system), and implemented EMC's Avamar deduplication back-up software. Hard Rock uses Avamar to remove redundant data and back up its point-of-sale (POS) system, spa management files, Microsoft Exchange e-mails, Microsoft SQL database and other applications.
At the time, Hard Rock was implementing VMware virtual machines (VMs), mainly because the data center was near capacity and there was no where to physically expand it. What started with two VMs with 15 production servers are now four VMs and 60 production servers, according to Rob Kosier, Hard Rock's director of IT. The VMs and remaining physical servers are backed up daily to a centralized Avamar storage grid and are stored on EMC CLARiiON networked storage along with other applications. Hard Rock also replicates the backups to another Avamar storage grid at a nearby data center that's been established as its disaster recovery site.
EMC acquired the Avamar technology when it bought the company in 2006. Avamar grids are appliances, and each appliance both runs the backups and stores the backups, explains Rob Emsley, senior director of product marketing for EMC's storage division. "So, you actually have a combined solution, as opposed to dedicated servers for back up, and then using those servers to drive content into deduplicated servers." In addition, Hard Rock uses the EMC SourceOne information governance solution to archive emails from its EMC CLARiiON production system to EMC Centera for long-term, cost-effective archiving. By archiving the content to Centera, Hard Rock was able to recoup primary storage space as well as reducing costs and risks associated with e-discovery requests.
The benefits of Avamar are impressive, Kosier says. "We were using what everybody else used, tape and tape libraries, and it does have its limits," he says. "We were looking for something that was high-speed, and would offer near-line ability to access data, if we needed to." Now, rather than running full backups one day and incremental backups other days, everything can be backed up every day. Kosier and his team considered several vendors' products, but they knew that they wanted to become tapeless, and that they wanted to be able to backup and recover data faster than they currently could.