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University graduates to Rubrik backup appliance with Azure cloud

University of Reading could only back up 20% of its data on an ageing tape library, so it modernised with a Rubrik appliance and Azure cloud storage in a cost-neutral project

The University of Reading has replaced an ageing tape backup infrastructure with a hyper-converged backup appliance from Rubrik plus cloud storage, in a cost-neutral move that has allowed it to protect 95% of its data after previously backing up only about 20%.

Restore times are down from a week to a matter of seconds in some cases and it has freed up IT staff from time-consuming management of backup processes, saving about one full resource day a week.

The university supports more than 18,000 students with 7,000 staff and has an IT infrastructure based around Microsoft Hyper-V, Exchange and applications dependent on SQL databases, plus staff research and collaborative projects.

Previously, backup was based on a single tape library and Veritas NetBackup software. The backup window was so long that only a small percentage of the university’s most critical assets were backed up, about 15% of virtual machines (VMs) and 20% of NAS storage.

That situation was handled by ensuring that as much data as possible was protected by retaining multiple copies, said infrastructure services manager Kevin Mortimer.

When the time came to upgrade that infrastructure, the university decided not to buy a bigger, faster tape library, but to look at alternatives.

“We wanted to be able to measure RPO [recovery point objective] and RTO [recovery time objective] and didn’t want to rely on the complexity of backing up multiple assets to a tape library,” said Mortimer. “We wanted to increase our agility and to get things looked after by a single vendor.”

Mortimer’s team looked at: Druva, but considered it too new a player at the time for entire server backup; Data Domain and Commvault, which “didn’t fulfil the requirement to move data off-site”; and Veeam, whose core count-based licensing charges were unattractive.

Rubrik, by contrast, ticked all the boxes in terms of what it would back up and seemed “nice and simple”, said Mortimer.

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The university deployed a four-node R348 Rubrik cluster with about 60TB of flash and spinning-disk capacity, to which data is backed up on an incremental-forever basis.

All data is also moved off immediately to the Cool tier of Microsoft Azure cloud storage, where about 170TB is currently held.

Key benefits are that the university can now back up nearly all of its data – about 95% – where previously it could protect only 15-20%.

Restore times have been slashed. In SQL, for example, databases can be restored to a point in time and run as live mounts on Rubrik’s flash drives. That has seen restores cut from about a week to 10 seconds, said Mortimer.

The whole project has been cost-neutral, so the university now backs up much more of its data, with huge gains in find-and-restore capability for the same cost. The backup revamp has also freed up IT staff from having to manage backups, thereby regaining about one day a week of staff time.

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