Brookhaven deploys virtual tape backup system

Brookhaven National Laboratory has installed an administrative backup system that works like tape backup, but is a disk-based system.

The backup appliance cost about the same as an expansion to the tape library but offers greater reliability and speed, according to Andrew Ferguson, manager of enterprise operations of Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y.

The Energy Department lab purchased the S2100-ES Virtual Tape Library from Sepaton Inc. of Southborough, Mass. The appliance will hold approximately 3.5T of administrative data, including e-mail, purchasing records and user home directories.

A virtual tape library mimics how an automated tape library operates but uses another medium, usually hard disks, to actually store the data, said Miki Sangorfi, chief technology officer for Sepaton.

By providing the same interfaces as a robotic library would use, the virtual tape library can work seamlessly with the enterprise storage management software many organizations use to automate backup routines. The tape library format is also better suited to managing terabytes of data, which can be unwieldy in a SAN environment, Sangorfi claimed.

Brookhaven does a full weekly backup of all user files on its storage area network. That process used to take over 12 hours, using an ATL P3000 DLT tape library from Quantum Corp. of Milpitas, Calif. The new disk-based system cut that time to 7 hours, Ferguson said. The new unit is connected to Brookhaven's SAN through Fibre Channel.

Ferguson also expects that the new system will save time in recovery. Whereas tape searches must be done serially, scrolling the tape to where the file is located, the disk-based system can hop there immediately.

Another advantage Ferguson saw with Sepaton's software is that it allows him to set the size of each virtual cartridge. Since enterprise backup software is often licensed by number of cartridges in use, Brookhaven can save money sizing the virtual cartridges larger.

Traditional thinking has long held that tape backups provide the highest level of reliability of all the storage media options available. Ferguson feels confident with this disk-based approach, however. The systems uses RAID 5, which ensures the data remains intact even when a disk fails. The unit also has a backup disk that can step in, should one of the other disks fail.

Reseller Enterprise Storage Solutions Inc. of Canton, Mass., sold the unit to Brookhaven. The Sepaton S2100-ES lists for $58,000.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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