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Case Study

Effective Backup and Restore on Virtual Infrastructure with EMC Avamar

Jul 2013

California Office Implements Powerful Backup and Restore with System Upgrades and Avamar

This California State Government Office was faced with a backup system that no longer met SLAs, a discontinuing tape storage contract, and insurmountable encryption regulations. The Office implemented EMC’s Avamar software/hardware solution with integrated variable-length deduplication technology. Business objectives were met 100% with effective data consolidation, deduplication, replication, encryption, and speed of backups, providing simplified management, additional security, and cost savings.

CS0015-2

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CUSTOMER PROFILE

This State of California government Office has three office/datacenter locations, 250 employees, compliance and governance requirements, and a track record of successfully managing and deploying large, complex mission critical systems providing project management, oversight, procurement, and support services.




Solution Overview

BUSINESS SITUATION: The Office’s existing backup systems no longer met SLAs stipulated by the department. Disaster Recovery exercises resulted in failure to recover data. State tape storage contracts with Iron Mountain were being discontinued and new encryption regulations could not be met with the current systems.
SOLUTION: The Office implemented EMC’s Avamar software/ hardware solution with integrated variable-length deduplication technology, designed to work with both virtual and physical environments, enabling required replication and disaster recovery across 3 locations.
BENEFITS: Business objectives were met 100% with effective data consolidation, deduplication, replication, encryption, and speed of backups, providing simplified management, additional security, and cost savings.
TOPICS COVERED:
  • EMC Avamar
  • EMC Data Domain
  • Deduplication
  • Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)
  • Best Practices
  • Virtualization Storage Optimization
  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO)
  • Recovery Time Objective (RTO)
  • Thin-provisioned LUNs


Challenge

When this California Office performed their Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) exercise, it became clear their Backup and Recovery systems had reached their own disaster point. After retrieving their backup tapes from Iron Mountain storage, they were unable to read the tapes. A second set of tapes lasted 18 hours into restoration before they were unreadable.

“Basically, the exercise failed,” stated the Office’s CTO.

Added to that was the fact that the California Technology Office was discontinuing their contract with Iron Mountain and new policies required offsite storage tapes be encrypted.

The Office’s existing backup software with 3 tape libraries backing up 3.6TBs of data was no longer meeting SLAs stipulated by the department. Weekly backup times took so long they conflicted with production cycles and had to be killed mid-process, without the ability to deliver 100% of the data. Additionally, required encryption of the data would have increased backup times by 50%, making that an impossible option.

The Office engaged Enterprise Networking Solutions (ENS-Inc) to evaluate the environment and make variable recommendations on how to proceed with backup and recovery for their 250 users and three geologically disparate physical locations. Three different options were considered:

  • Use existing product in a more effective manner to achieve better backup performance: The existing tape drives were beyond end-of-life. However, costs of replacements, in addition to maintenance and licensing costs, prohibited going down the road of not changing the existing system.
  • Minimal expenditures towards new product to be used with existing architecture (EMC Data Domain hardware with existing backup software or a potential new software): The Data Domains could replicate to each other and offered excellent target-based deduplication. However, the Office’s existing legacy software and software options had limitations requiring a lot of manual intervention, challenges with backup and replication timing, and no source-based deduplication.
  • New product, new direction: EMC Avamar software and hardware solution with integrated variable-length deduplication technology, designed to work with both virtual and physical environments. Avamar enabled remote backups, accomplished the required replication, and kept the data within the Office’s private network and their own data centers, eliminating encryption needs. Costs and budgets required careful evaluation.

The CTO and his project manager began their painstaking analysis of the options. Instead of just looking at the up-front money, they also looked at the actual cost of ownership, factoring in the amount of time the staff would require to manage the tape drives, costs of license renewals for the current backup software, and maintenance contracts on Avamar, Data Domains, or a new tape solution.

"It came down to Avamar being a better value,” said the CTO. “We could meet a break-even point at three or four years.” Even more cost-effective, the Office was able to begin at a very entry-level investment with the ability to scale with future growth. Office executive staff easily approved the acquisition.



Process

The end goal required Avamar nodes at three locations. The Branch 1 site would be remotely backed up to the Branch 2 data center. Branch 2 would replicate to Headquarters (HQ), and HQ would replicate to Branch 2. Data from all three sites would be at both HQ and Branch 2, remaining in the Office’s private network and data centers. The contract cutoff with Iron Mountain presented a hard completion deadline.

Unique challenges quickly arose due to an outdated network and infrastructure, requiring substantial clean-up and configuration before the Avamar installation could take place. Errors and misconfigurations were detected with Active Directory (AD) and the AD infrastructure, child domains, domain hierarchy, and machine domain assignments. The underlying AD and permissions needed to be working properly to ensure success of the backup implementation.

The Office reconfigured DNS for existing servers to point to new servers. ENS-Inc engineers built four (4) new Server 2008 R2 domain controllers for the child domains in addition to two for the parent domains at HQ and Branch 2. AD replication errors were tackled. Group Policy Objects (GPO) were reviewed for additions or removal based on the new features in AD 2008R2.

Virtualization storage optimization required cleanup of “garbage files” and Virtual Machine (VM) resources. VMs were migrated from thick-provisioned LUNs to thin-provisioned LUNs. ISOs were moved to a dedicated datastore on the vault pack of one of the EMC Clariion SANs. Patches and updates to outdated ESXi hosts and VMs were applied without impacting the Office’s day-to-day critical business functions.

The Office continued the process of increasing bandwidth between Branch 2 and HQ from 100MBs to 150MBs to support replication and backup between sites. ENS-Inc engineers implemented replication of application installation files across all sites using DFS. Policies were developed around the size and location of PST files. The Office also initiated internal processes to develop a data retention policy including a Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO).

In all upgrade and configuration tasks, Best Practices were researched and strictly adhered to, the processes accordingly communicated to relevant Office team members. The ENS-Inc Project Manager played a vital role in successfully coordinating all work efforts. “It was like having an advocate for the Office on the ENS side,” remarked the Office’s CTO.

In spite of an aggressive timeframe, with only a single minor extension, the first day the Avamar was up and working all servers backed up successfully.

“All the lights on the screen were green,” exclaimed the Office CTO. “It was a celebration day!”




Benefits

The Office met 100% of their business objectives. After the Avamar implementation the Office completed a successful DRP exercise for the year. The total disaster recovery plan took about 18 hours, recovering 650G of data on the equivalent of six servers. Actual data restores in response to specific work tickets take only minutes.

As Avamar utilizes physical disks, this has enabled the Office to make more effective use of the SAN infrastructure. The two 7.8TB Avamar nodes are currently utilizing only 28% capacity, protecting 9,167 GB of data with a 99.41% deduplication ratio.

“The interesting thing is,” states the Office CTO, “we haven’t tapped the full capabilities yet. Avamar has the capability to back up the entire virtual machine and data.” Over the next year the Office plans to take mission critical servers and back them up as VMs so that in a disaster they can restore without having to configure. The Office Backup Specialist will be attending additional Avamar training in Santa Clara to help achieve those objectives. “We will need to add some additional storage but the value is well worth it and the incremental cost will not be that much.”

For now, the Office is able to exceed SLAs and is reaping exceptional benefits which include:

  • Comprehensive and effective deduplication
  • Efficient consolidation of data
  • Encryption provided by the Avamar system
  • Substantially increased speed of backups
  • Simplified management
  • Additional security
  • An environment that is a lot more self-aware with less resources to manage

According to the Office CTO, “Backups are not a concern of mine anymore!”



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