Improved Storage Management for Central Servers - Backup Solution

by John Chan

Last issue, we mentioned the acquisition of the Network Storage System (NSS)
as the standard platform for central storage, and the Storage Area Network (SAN) is chosen as the NSS architecture for deployment. This issue, we will focus on the acquisition of a centralised backup solution (CBS) as another part of the storage management improvement.

Benefits of CBS

Traditional backup methods using local devices attached to each machine have many drawbacks. With the introduction of the CBS, many of the deficiencies that were traditionally very difficult to resolve can be eliminated. These include the following:

  1. With the increase in the sizing of each data volume, in particular, with the adoption of SAN,backing up such a large volume by each system would be very time consuming and require extremely fast and high capacity tape drives. Using a CBS, the backup time can be trimmed down and the resources can be shared more efficiently.

  2. There are numerous different servers being installed centrally for providing various kinds of services for the whole campus. Traditional backup methods require an enormous amount of time and a lot of operational intervention while a CBS can reduce the manual intervention on backup and restore, hence saving manpower on operation and support and avoiding possible human errors.

  3. Using a CBS, all backup and restore procedures can be standardised for the many different platforms that have been installed centrally. Again, this can save operational manpower and support, thus reducing possible human errors.

  4. Traditionally, it is very difficult to duplicate backup tapes. This means there is always a high risk that data cannot be restored when required due to a defected backup tape. With a CBS, tape duplication becomes an easy job.

  5. Since resources can be allocated more effectively with the setup of a CBS, the time required for the restoration of data can be greatly reduced, thus minimising the amount of interruption to users or services.

  6. Since a CBS manages all resources centrally, the scalability of resources can be greatly increased in cases where extra capacity is required for additional systems or for the change in backup scheduling.

  7. The CBS has its own hardware and software. This means that all backup traffic can be converged, in most cases, to its private connection between the CBS and the central storage such as SAN. In other words, the network traffic, the SAN traffic, and the host resources would be greatly reduced during the backup process. This can hardly be achieved using traditional backup methods.

The Solution

The solution proposed by the EMC Computer Systems Ltd. was recommended and acquired by the Computing Services Centre (CSC) in June 2001. By August, all the necessary hardware and software were delivered, and the CSC and the EMC have been working together since then on the implementation of the solution.

The EMC solution consists of an EDM server together with an ATL P3000 tape library to form the main framework of the CBS. Initially, the P3000 allows 12 DLT tape drives to be operating concurrently and 326 tape slots to be filled up with tapes for operation readiness. The EDM is the only product on the market that can support true server-less backup solution. This means the EDM can be directly attached to the SAN using a private connection, thereby totally reducing the network traffic, the SAN traffic, and the resource requirements on each individual system during the backup process. By adopting this setup, all of the abovementioned benefits will be fully accomplished.