Hull university turns to BridgeHead archiving software in tiered storage move

The University of Hull implements archiving software from BridgeHead as part of a 25-year data lifecycle plan driven by green storage policy to lower the TCO of storing data.

The University of Hull has implemented archiving software from BridgeHead Software in a bid to manage ever-growing data volumes, reduce its carbon footprint by moving to a tiered storage strategy and shrink backup windows. BridgeHead won out by using a per terabyte licencing model instead of per user – a formula that allowed it to come in at 2% of the cost of the equivalent Symantec product.

The university, which has about 30,000 user accounts, has seen data volumes on centralised storage grow from 0.75 TB two years ago to 20 TB today. That surge in data came about when it moved from distributed DAS plus a 0.75 TB Compaq TruSan to a NetApp FAS 3020 NAS/SAN filer which currently holds around 20 TB of data.

We've set policy to archive to SATA disks on the NetApp device but we will eventually archive off to tape or CD.
Dr David Jarvis
desktop and data services managerUniversity of Hull
Much of the university's storage is taken up by files and multimedia content for teaching and learning materials. The data also includes research-related information, including mapping data, used by the geography department and X-ray and imaging information retained by medical engineering.

Dr David Jarvis, desktop and data services manager for the university's computing services department, said the move towards archiving using Bridgehead was part of an information lifecycle management (ILM) plan at the university. The move to ILM is being implemented as part of a drive to lower the institution's carbon footprint. "We have a 25-year data lifecycle plan," he said. "For 10 years data will reside on Fibre Channel or SATA drives, for the 10 years after that on cheap SATA or other media, and at 20 years it will go to optical media or tape."

Jarvis added, "The main reason for the move is to reduce the total cost of ownership of data, though we also needed to stop backups exceeding a 12-hour window. We've seen a big increase in storage demand and want to plan for the future so that we're managing costs as well as cutting the energy and resources we're devoting to storage and backup."

The university has implemented BridgeHead's BH FileStore software to automatically archive data from its NetApp filer Fibre Channel drives onto SATA disks in the same array. FileStore uses a stubbing feature which makes archived data transparent to users. Data that is removed from the primary store is replaced with 1 KB placeholders, or stubs, which allow users to access the file content from the archive as if still in the live environment.

With data up to 19 years old, the univeristy has set policy to move that which is more than 10 years old to the second tier of storage. There are plans afoot to set up a third tier of capacity. "We've set policy to archive to SATA disks on the NetApp device but we will eventually archive off to tape or CD," Jarvis said. "We haven't decided exactly which yet, but as long as it's not constantly spinning is the aim."

Jarvis said the university chose BridgeHead because no other product stood out as being able to do what the university wanted. The university also liked BridgeHead's licencing model. BridgeHead uses a per-terabyte licencing model, a formula that allowed it to come in at 2% of the cost of the equivalent Symantec product, which was offered only on a per-user basis.

So far the university has carried out trials of the product to establish confidence that the product works and that it is stable. Jarvis is particularly keen to ensure stability and accessible UK-based support after a bad experience with hierarchical storage management softwqre from CaminoSoft Corp. "We had terrible problems with Caminosoft," he said. "On one occasion it archived everything off into a black hole we couldn't recover from. "Then another time it unarchived everything back without being asked and corrupted all the data in the process. Because they had no UK presence, we couldn't get daylight telephone conversations with them or we had to do things by email, which was unsatisfactory. It took us months to recover from those events."

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