Disk-based backup is priority: Britannia Building Society's Mathias

The Britannia Building Society's Dylan Mathias talks about communicating with the business, dealing with massive data growth, and a recent disk-based backup and dedupe project.

Dylan Mathias
Dylan Mathias, Unix and storage manager, Britannia Building Society

Want to know what your peers in the storage industry are spending their time and money on, and how they're coping with IT challenges? SearchStorage.co.UK regularly interviews data storage managers in the UK. This week, bureau chief Antony Adshead speaks with Dylan Mathias, Unix and storage manager at mortgage and lending company Britannia Building Society.

Mathias talks about how to communicate with the business about storage, ways to cut costs in the context of massive data growth, and a recent project by the Britannia Building Society to implement disk-based backup and data deduplication.

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Q. How did you get into storage?

A. I was a child of the first generation of home computers and had a [Sinclair] ZX Spectrum 27 years ago. Since then, I've trained in electronics and computing, and through my IT career I've been a hardware engineer, computer operator, PC support analyst and Unix admin. Then, as the world moved from DAS [direct-attached storage] to SAN [storage-area networks] it was often the Unix people who became the storage people.

We have 50% year-on-year growth in data, but our budget doesn't grow at the same pace.
Dylan Mathias
Unix and storage managerBritannia Building Society

Q. How do the business and other parts of IT view storage and how do you communicate with them?

A. The business doesn't know storage exists unless it runs out. People don't see storage like they do a PC on a desk, and it can be hard persuading the business to invest in it. I try to put things in a language they'll understand. A terabyte of [data] storage doesn't mean anything to many people, so I translate it into a number in MP3s or pages of Word documents.

Q. What's your biggest satisfaction as a storage professional?

A. My biggest satisfaction is keeping up with new technologies and being able, sometimes, to invest in them. Currently, I'm very interested to see what SSDs [solid-state drives] can bring to storage, whether it'll be like what broadband did to the Internet when it superceded the dial-up connection. SSD is so much faster than spinning disk and it may open up new opportunities.

Q. What's your biggest challenge in storage?

A. Keeping up with rising demand without blowing our budget. We have 50% year-on-year growth in data but our budget doesn't grow at the same pace. So we're constantly on the lookout for opportunities to increase capacity by, for example, spotting where we have old, low-capacity drives and replacing them with newer ones. If you have a box full of 18 GB drives, you can put in 146 GB ones with no increase in footprint or power use, for example.

Q. What will be your biggest spend of this year?

A. It will be on merging our infrastructure with Co-op Financial Services, which is set to happen in August, but all investment is on hold until we know what that will entail. Our biggest spend of the past year has been on the implementation of disk as the primary backup target and the Data Domain kit.

Q. What would you like to have done if you weren't in storage?

A. A guitarist. Sadly, I'm a failed one. I was in a heavy rock band called Megalomania. We gigged around Stoke for about three years and then I realised I had to join the real world.

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