New SAN Leads to Backup Replacement

The Mohegan Tribe found using a VTL enticing, since backups would be much faster and incremental backups could be done daily rather than every few days

March 27, 2009

4 Min Read
Network Computing logo

An organization needs to invest in technology to reap the benefits of technology. That maxim may seem evident to many, but it was something that only recently became crystal clear to the Mohegan tribe. After investing in a new storage-area network as part of an IT infrastructure overhaul, the tribe found itself having to upgrade its backup system, a change that resulted in the deployment of a virtual tape library.

The Mohegan Tribe is responsible for municipal services, such as police, health, and tribal services, for a tribe best known for operating gambling casinos and hotels in Connecticut. While the tribe is responsible for the municipal gaming regulation boards, the casino and hotel IT systems are overseen by a separate entity. To support its municipal services, the tribe has 40 servers and about 400 client systems running Microsoft's Windows operating system.

About two years ago, the tribe decided to upgrade its storage infrastructure. It decided to move to a SAN rather than have its data controlled by autonomous servers. "A lot of our IT initiatives had been held up because our computing infrastructure was not powerful enough to support them," says David Shoup, technology manager for the tribe.

Deploying a redundant SAN in 2007 created a ripple effect. The amount of data used by the tribe increased from 500 GB to 2 TB, and the additional workload started to stress the municipal organization's tape system. The tribe had been completing incremental backups every other night for various applications and doing complete backups during the weekend. With the data volume rising, the backup windows had increased, so it was becoming likely that some would not be completed on time. In addition, the organization was having trouble tracking its growing volume of tapes.

Consequently, the tribe began to look at alternatives. A VTL was enticing for a couple of reasons. The speed of backups would be much higher, so it would be more likely that the work would be finished on time. Also, incremental backups could be done daily rather than every few days.In addition, the organization viewed disk storage as more reliable than tape. "We had good luck with our tape drives, but anytime you use them, you know that there is a chance that you will not get your data back," Shoup says. "So I had had too many sleepless nights in past."

The tribe took a quick look at products from Data Domain and HP before choosing the latter. "We are an HP Proliant shop and had installed an HP SAN as well," says Shoup. Staying with the same vendor meant that the technicians did not have to learn a new management interface. In addition, the tribe had good experience with HP's customer service. The system, which was $60,000, cost a bit more than adding another tape library. "The long-term costs of tape, such as adding more capacity, would have been significant. With the VTL, all we have to do is program a few more virtual drives."

The HP VTL purchase was included in the fall budget. The hardware arrived in November and was up and running in December. The deployment, however, ran into one problem. The Mohegan Tribe was using Symantec's Backup Exec as its backup software. The software was compatible with HP's base system, but not its data deduplication features, which the tribe wanted to take advantage of. Consequently, the tribe switched to HP's Data Protector backup software. "Changing our backup software made sense for us," Shoup says. "We were outgrowing Backup Exec and felt Data Protector was more of an enterprise-class system, which we needed."

To date, the transition has gone well. The data deduplication features have provided the tribe with additional storage, if needed. The municipal agency likes the VTL's reporting features and has found it straightforward to generate reports. While the SAN upgrade did create a need for a new backup system, it has also helped to improve the organization's efficiency. The tribe has now deployed document management and email archiving systems, so its users can track their electronic correspondences more effectively.

InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis of the challenges around enterprise storage. Download the report here (registration required).0

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights