School gets Nimble hybrid flash and Barracuda hybrid cloud backup

Berkshire private college has revamped data protection with Nimble hybrid flash storage and Barracuda hybrid cloud backup

A Berkshire private school revamped its data protection by deploying Nimble Storage hybrid flash storage and Barracuda hybrid cloud backup when its NetApp-based replication began to hit performance limits.

Wellington College has 1,100 pupils, 300 staff and 850 PCs and backs up about 6TB of data a day.

It is a Microsoft house running SQL databases and Office applications on the Hyper-V virtualisation hypervisor platform.

Server hardware is all HP blades. Storage was solely NetApp with replication across two sites on the 400 acre site, but this has been replaced with hybrid flash arrays from Nimble Storage and Barracuda hybrid cloud backup.

The NetApp filers had reached their limits in terms of performance, especially with regard to replication, said the college’s director of IT services, Tony Whelton.

“We were finding that NetApp’s deduplication and SnapMirror functionality were struggling, losing IOPS in a big way. There was noticeably bad latency for individual clients,” he said.

“We asked NetApp what we could do, but there was too much demand on the filers. We could do the snapshots, etc, but we had to carefully monitor capacity. If we left it, we risked a large amount of data building up and LUNs going offline if they hit capacity.”

Nimble Storage is one of a number of hybrid flash storage suppliers that have arisen recently. In hybrid flash storage, low-latency flash disk handles hot data and front-ends bulk Sata capacity with data deduplication used to maximise the volume held.

In place of the existing setup, the college deployed a Barracuda Backup Server 890 10TB hybrid cloud backup device.

Hybrid cloud backup is where data is staged and retained on local disk while also being transmitted to the service provider’s cloud. This arrangement sidesteps the inherent problem of latency when accessing data from the cloud.

Replication on-site for disaster recovery purposes now takes place between the Nimble array and the NetApp filers on the second site using Microsoft High Availability.

Meanwhile, the Barracuda 890 provides local storage with replication to the company’s cloud. Different policies apply to different types of data with regard to how long they are retained on-site at the college, said Whelton.

“Everything goes to cloud storage, but Exchange data also stays local for six months, financial data for years,” he said.

Whelton said the school could run essential IT services – email, management apps – temporarily from the cloud within hours via a 200Mbps WAN connection. All services could be restored within 24 hours via the second site by rebuilding the five hosts.

He said Barracuda was attractive because it offered one solution for backup software, the network connection and cloud capacity. “We looked at the big vendors but no one sold an all-in-one application. Also, we implemented it in minutes,” he said.

Whelton said other key benefits have been that it has freed up one member of staff who used to have to check backups on a regular basis. “Now we see the status and quality of backups without having to do lots of digging down,” he said.

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