Case Study: A city in Kansas does tapeless backup
Revinetix disk-based appliances more cost-effective than tape
Overland Park is the second largest city in the state of Kansas. Its population is around 167,000 people. To sustain police, fire, public works and other city operations, Overland Park operates more than 120 computer servers. The City also operates critical public safety dispatch servers for Johnson County, as well as the emergency operations center servers for the Mid-America Regional Council, the regional planning organization for Greater Kansas City.
Overland Park’s largely Windows-based computer servers support between 1,000 and 1,300 users at any given time and host more than 15 Terabytes of data. To protect these systems, the City has a data backup and archiving strategy, which initially involved Compaq SDLT Tape Libraries and Veritas Backup Exec software.
As time passed Overland Park’s tape backup gear became outdated, cumbersome and lacked the performance and storage capacity needed. Reliability concerns, as well as administrative overhead also became more of a worry.
New backup system
Randy Oehrle, Overland Park’s IT network administrator, was over-stretched: “Backups were running 24 hours a day — there was no such thing as a backup window. I couldn’t back everything up in a reasonable time. It was a challenge to say the least. There were so many things that could go wrong, and I was spending literally 90 percent of my time rotating and re-cataloging tapes, searching through backups.”
Overland Park decided to get a new backup system. As part of a public Request for Proposal (RFP) process, it reviewed proposals from EMC, CommVault, Veritas, and their associated Virtual Tape Libraries (VTLs). A Revinetix Value-Added Reseller (VAR) Yellow Dog Networks proposed a disk-based alternative, the Revinetix Sentio 4000 appliance.
“I wrote the RFP with VTLs in mind, but I left it open-ended with caveats for specifications, in case this may not be the best or optimal solution,” Oehrle said. “Everyone had the same dog and pony show, except for Revinetix. Revinetix and Yellow Dog Networks proposed to eliminate tape all together. I had nothing but problems with tape, so this was great. In the end, the two things that cast votes for Revinetix were the simplicity of the solution and the price. The simplicity was tremendous, browser-based, and it was significantly less expensive.”
Yellow Dog Networks uses a Revinetix system in-house. Gretchen Gregory, Yellow Dog Networks’ president, said: “Initially, we bought an appliance in-house, and we had it installed backing up three companies that we own in fifteen minutes. It was so intriguing that it was so simple and intuitive. Generally, implementing a backup solution can take several weeks to a month. Revinetix does it seamlessly without having to add a bunch of other software. I was very impressed with that.”
“Revinetix was perfect. One box. Easy process. Very intuitive. It was also very affordable in comparison to the EMCs, CommVaults and other backup companies.”
“When I initially formed Yellow Dog Networks, we didn’t sell backup due to the complexity behind it. Tape backup is slow, antiquated and requires you to put a number of different vendors’ products together to make a solution. Backup shouldn’t be that hard.”
Support costs make the difference
Besides ease of installation and use, affordability played a significant role in Overland Park’s bidding process.
“For CommVault, NetWorker and Veritas, support is outrageous,” Oehrle said. “For my environment support costs would have cost roughly $30,000 a year, not counting if I added anything. For three years, you’re talking almost $100,000 just for support, forget the hardware. They are very capable, very complex products, but, my gosh, Veritas is not intuitive, nor easily deployed. I was shown very complex diagrams with media servers, fibre-attached devices, VTLs attached, servers attached and encryption hardware. There are so many links in the chain. It was crazy. Simplicity is the kicker.”
“The software licensing for Revinetix is great. If I have a million servers, I have all of the agents. With Veritas or CommVault, I have to add a server and add another agent and that costs so much money. That is really a hassle, whereas now I am licensed to do that and I am done.”
The new set-up
Overland Park currently has two Revinetix Sentio appliances installed with 30 Terabytes of capacity, backing up Exchange, SQL, Oracle, and other network servers. This provides the City with two month’s of data storage capacity online before needing to archive.
One appliance serves as the primary backup device, backing up all of the servers on a nightly basis. The second appliance is located in the City’s Disaster Recovery (DR) center, acting as a mirror for the primary unit. Should Overland Park ever lose the primary Revinetix appliance, the City can promote the mirror unit by the push of a button (via software) to become the primary Revinetix unit.
“The Revinetix solution has a built-in facility to replicate elsewhere, whereas the other tape solutions didn’t have provisions for this,” Oehrle said. “They had to have a second VTL and replicate. I have fibre, and the Revinetix box now replicates between appliances every day. If I lose this building, a couple of clicks and the replicated appliance is now the primary appliance and all of the clients are taken care of. I can get data backup very quickly. That has changed the perspective on DR a bit. Now the data is already offsite.”
“The difference going from tape to disk is readily apparent. Whereas most of the tape backups were just running all of the time, now we start backups at 8pm each night, and they run just 5-6 hours. I now have one appliance, and I don’t have to reload software. I just have to browse to it again. A couple of clicks and I can start restoring.”
“It was becoming 90 percent of my day to deal with backups. It has now gone from hours to seconds in the day. For me, it is incredible. I can actually do my job, network management, instead of backup management.”
Some Revinetix details
Each Revinetix appliance comes with RevOS operating system to manage and automate backup and recovery functions through a simple-to-use, Web-based administration interface. Supporting all major operating systems in use today, this software keeps a running catalog database of all the files that have been saved on the appliance, so when the time comes to retrieve vital information, you simply point and click to find the file or directory you need.
Revinetix products include Bare Metal Restore (BMR) software. By creating a complete disk image to be stored on the appliance, the BMR software can quickly add new users, or get users back up and productive after a fatal system crash. Virtually any hard drive can be backed up and cloned using this utility.
Revinetix software has built-in Network Attached Storage (NAS) capabilities, which allow users to quickly and easily add storage capacity for RAID-protected file sharing. IT administrators can make unused disk space on appliances available to users on the LAN, making a Revinetix appliance double as a network file server.
Using Revinetix’ Microsoft Exchange Server Agent, users can view, select and restore individual emails and/or mailboxes from live Exchange server databases based on search criteria.
The Revinetix system of disk communication allows the device to read and write different files at the same time – an impossible task to accomplish using serial tape technology. This expanded data handling capability dramatically reduces the amount of time required for data backup and recovery.
Revinetix supports hot swappable drive technology that enables customers to grow their capacity without the need to upgrade to new, expensive equipment. This technology allows users to store data off-line and off-site on easily removable archive disk drives, totally eliminating the need to transfer data to serial magnetic tape and providing rapid data access and restore when required. Revinetix products currently support storage capacities ranging from 400 Gigabytes up to 18 Terabytes of raw storage capacity.