SSA fortifies data future with move to all virtual storage

SSA fortifies data future with move to all virtual storage

The Social Security Administration is looking toward a new approach to storage in the next year as it prepares to launch the Electronic Vault system, a key piece of the agency’s new National Support Center.

The NSC is a 300,000 square foot, $489 million facility designed to leverage new technologies, including server virtualization and thin provisioning to lower costs and closely scale resources.

SAA said it will migrate its mainframe backup and recovery operations from magnetic tape media to disk-based virtual tape for the vault system, which will come online by the end of 2016 to support the NSC.

“Modern virtual tape systems have the performance and capacity to handle our backup requirements, while using significantly less data center floor space compared to magnetic tape media,” SSA said in a written response to questions about its storage systems.

SSA’s commitment to virtual tape is significant, as it has 27 petabytes of raw deduplicated virtual tape and approximately 50 petabytes of raw Direct Access Storage Devices (DASD) storage in three data centers.

When SSA has fully migrated to the new NSC, it will have 30 petabytes of raw DASD, the agency said.

SSA is deploying virtual tape systems from Oracle and EMC, which will provide the performance and capacity to handle backup requirements.

“Virtual tape provides all of the advantages of modern disk-based storage at a price that is cheaper than magnetic tape media,” SSA said. The bottom line? “By the end of 2016, when our Electronic Vault becomes fully operational, SSA will no longer have physical tape,” the agency vowed.

The agency has already virtualized much of its open system data stores, which are attached to HP, Oracle Solaris, VMware and Windows servers using storage-area networks and network-attached storage. Mainframe subsystems from EMC and IBM are virtually provisioned and auto-tiered, too.

SSA says virtualization is improving storage system usage and energy efficiency.

“The virtualization and automated tiering of mainline mainframe and open systems storage subsystems have allowed us to service the increased input/output (I/O) demands of the servers while consolidating data onto higher density media. This reduces both the physical and environmental footprint,” SSA said.

At the same time, SSA is deduplicating its data to reduce the amount of storage required for backups. For example, SSA is seeing a deduplication reduction factor of 18:1 for tape backups on its open system platforms and 9:1 for the mainframe virtual tape subsystem.

SSA said deduplication is giving the agency a significant environmental advantage. “Our continued migration from physical to virtual tape is providing improved energy efficiency, reduced footprint and enhanced business resilience,” SSA said.

SSA also virtualizes and auto-tiers its mainline DASD subsystems to support its I/O needs and slash its physical and environmental footprint. SSA said heavily accessed data will reside on solid state drive (SSD) media while high-capacity data will reside on high-density Serial ATA (SATA) media.

The agency said government data centers will reap significant rewards by exploiting storage virtualization along with automated tiering and data deduplication. “These technologies are robust and maturing rapidly,” SSA noted.

Data centers that are adopting storage virtualization should also deploy resource management and performance management tools, SSA recommended.

“These tools are essential to managing a storage infrastructure supporting high-performance, high-availability workloads with a given staff efficiency,” SSA said. “They become even more critical when virtualizing and tiering storage.

About the Author

Carolyn Duffy Marsan is a writer based in Milwaukee, Wisc., covering enterprise technology.

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