Bulky backups spur Council to consolidate, centralise

Local authority's move to centralised backups and a mixed NAS/SAN storage infrastructure results in faster, more efficient backups because less backup traffic goes over the network than before.

Wolverhampton City Council has chosen NetApp FAS 3040 arrays and BakBone NetVault: Backup software in a project designed to create a unified NAS/SAN iSCSI/Fibre Channel setup and to streamline the backup process.

The move, which was necessitated by the existing Hitachi Data Systems SAN reaching end of life, has allowed the city council to consolidate eight backups to one, and cut down on the time needed for support and management of the system.

The Council – which has more than 12,000 employees spread across around 500 sites – provides IT and communications services from primary and secondary data centres as well as local offices. Until last year, the Council's storage infrastructure centred on an HDS 9960 disk array, which had become unsupported, and an IBM Enterprise Storage Server (ESS) 800, which is still being used for mainframe storage but will be retired this year.

We wanted more centralisation in our backups and to be able to work through the firewalls
Gary Yates
data managerWolverhampton council
The other major challenge in the existing backup infrastructure was that the Council was using eight instances of EMC Legato Networker on discrete backup servers behind separate firewalled network domains. Gary Yates, data manager with Wolverhampton City Council, said the IT department wanted to make sure it could get much more efficient backups when it upgraded to new storage systems.

"The HDS box was coming to end of life and was unsupported, so we decided to see what was out there," said Yates. "We wanted more centralisation in our backups and to be able to work through the firewalls and get features such as snapshots."

The Council opted for two NetApp FAS 3040 arrays, providing 50 TB on a mix of SATA and Fibre Channel drives at its primary site, along with one NetApp FAS 3020 with all SATA drives at its disaster recovery site. The NetApp subsystems are used as NAS devices for CIFS traffic, while plans to enable NFS file serving are afoot. The filers are connected via iSCSI and Fibre Channel networks.

The backup software chosen -- BakBone's NetVault: Backup version 7.4 -- carries out asynchronous replication over the Ethernet network between the two sites to a virtual tape library and then to an LTO3 tape library.

Yates said that data protection had become onerous in terms of manageability with discrete backups operating in separate domains, behind firewalls. A key attraction of the BakBone software was its ability to be easily configured for use in such an environment. "Previously backups were all over the place with a server in each domain and some of them taking a very long time," he said. "The main benefit we gained with BakBone is that it's a centralised backup product that works through the firewalls.

"When we first looked at backing up servers through firewalls, EMC NetWorker required thousands of ports to be open and our security team was not happy. BakBone does not need nearly so many ports to be open and it's even easier to set up in version 8.0, so I've been told. We are planning to upgrade [to 8.0] in the near future."

Because of the introduction of iSCSI as a transport for storage on the client/server network, there was a risk of network congestion. Yates's IT team dealt with this by upgrading the network as well as configuring it to provide a discrete VLAN tunnel for storage traffic. Now, less backup traffic goes over the network than before because the tape drives are attached via Fibre Channel to the NetApp devices via Brocade switches. This allows direct NDMP backups of the data on the filers.

"We upgraded our network infrastructure at about the same time we installed the NetApp filers and from the point of view of NAS CIFS, we have not experienced any networking problems," Yates said. "We had lots of fileshares before on many Windows servers, so there's been no real change. But we have also made sure iSCSI traffic runs over different VLANs."

Yates said that the NetApp/BakBone combination won out over IBM Tivoli on the strength of features offered. He says, "We looked at a tender which put forward IBM N Series NAS with Tivoli Storage Manager backup. At the end of the day, there just wasn't the amount of options that we could get with the NetApp filers and BakBone– snap mirror to tape, for example, is pretty unique."

If there's one improvement Yates would like to see in NetVault, it would be a better GUI. "I don't use a mouse and it's difficult to use that way," he says. "It's a minor gripe and the only one I'd have."

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