NTT Europe saves time with Sepaton data deduplication VTL deployment

NTT Europe was sick of tape libraries “shoeshining” so went for a $2.5m deployment of Sepaton data deduplication virtual tape libraries to slash backup and restore times

NTT Europe has ditched tape backups and cut its backup window from more than 12 hours to less than four in a $2.5m project that saw it deploy Sepaton virtual tape libraries (VTL) for more than a petabyte of data.

Networking and managed services provider NTT Europe – an arm of the Japanese telco NTT – has 700 enterprise-class European customers which it supports from five UK and European sites.

The project was specifically aimed at revamping its backup regime to one based on data deduplication and disk from one based predominantly on tape with a small amount of staging disk in JBOD form.

A key difficulty, said senior product manager for NTT Europe Adam Lembariti, was that writing data to tape was inefficient due the volume and very varied nature of data from different customers.

This led to so-called shoeshining, which is where less than optimal amounts of data are fed to tape writing heads that must constantly stop, reverse and start again in an effort to fill tape capacity and cope with less than optimal throughput.

“With very mixed customer data it was difficult to enforce uniformity at the front end and manage complexity at the back end,” said Lembariti.

“We back up about 200TB per night, and being a service provider with lots of customers means the data is very fragmented, there’s lots of it and it’s complex to manage. There was also the big challenge of managing hundreds of tapes,” he added.

NTT Europe deployed Sepaton S2100-ES2 virtual tape library hardware with back-end capacity supplied by Hitachi Data Systems AMS arrays with Fibre Channel drives at five sites – two in the UK and one each in France, Spain and Germany – starting in the first quarter of this year.

Data is backed up using Symantec NetBackup to the Sepaton hardware. Data deduplication is neither inline nor post-process but is, according to Sepaton, “concurrent”. A full (compressed) copy of the backup is retained at the target while processing takes place as soon as a 50GB tape cartridge’s worth of data is ingested.

A single Sepaton device can manage throughput up to 43.2TB/hour with maximum capacity of 1.6PB before deduplication.

“We benchmarked a few similar products, but rejected them for various reasons, such as integration with our backup product," said Lembariti. "Sepaton has integration with Symantec OST [Open Storage Technology] and also has very good data deduplication.”

The key benefits for Lembariti’s team centre on the ability to keep something like a month’s worth of data on disk for almost instant restore and doing away with reliance on tape on a day-to-day basis.

“The challenge of managing tapes on a daily basis has gone and now we only use it for long-term storage,” he said.

The backup window has decreased from more than 12 hours to less than four, and there are no more bottlenecks as data no longer struggles to be ingested into the backup hardware at sub-optimal rates.

“We’ve saved hundreds of staff hours in management,” said Lembariti.

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