Financial firm's storage portfolio boosted with backup device

Suffering from a data crunch, American Skandia needed a system that had the flexibility to manage and attach to all devices.

American Skandia Inc. was suffering from data overload.

The Shelton, Conn.-based financial services firm was equipped with substantial data-storage architecture, which was used to move about 5T bytes of data daily across multiple platforms. The company used Veritas Backup Exec across its NT environment, and also used Veritas NetBackup on the Sun Solaris side.

It was a workable arrangement, but IT Director Will Conner says his firm needed more of a turnkey approach to backing up and restoring data. File growth was outpacing capacity, backups were taking longer and the company risked having to rebuild data from peripheral storage media if one of its servers burped. In addition, "because each system had its own independent backup solution, there was so much complexity with stopping and starting -- and with locating and managing tapes -- that the operations team in the data center wasn't happy with us handing off even simple tape changes to them," says Conner.

Eventually, the company began migrating away from Veritas towards IBM Tivoli Storage Management (TSM) as the centralized architecture for backup and restore functions. To minimize the burden on IT staff, as well as speed backups and keep server resources humming, American Skandia opted to add STORServer Backup Appliance, an integrated product sold by STORServer Inc. of Colorado Springs, Colo. STORServer is based on TSM and packages three distinct products -- backup, archive and disaster recovery -- in a single box.

StorServer connects to American Skandia's 600-slot tape library, which contains 45 days' worth of backups for all systems. The product's point-and-click method was appealing to Conner and his IT crew. Using a regular browser, a user can identify only files that have changed each day and then designate those files for backup, "whereas with Veritas Backup Exec, you got one tape, outputted that, and sent it off-site" as a backup, says Conner.

In other words, backups don't monopolize server resources. "One of the side effects of this," Conner said, "was we were able to increase the service level of applications and NT servers by not having them married to the backup system."

Another area of impact, says Conner, was the ability to retrieve files without having to always load magnetic tapes. "We now have a local copy [of tape] that's accessible online with a Web browser. If we had to recover something from tape that's in the online tape pool, we can do that without having to call back a tape."

There was another important consideration for American Skandia. As a financial services company, it must comply with new securities regulations to keep certain fixed documents "immutable and tamper-proof." In addition to being backed up to tape and disk, these files also must be written to optical storage devices.

"We needed a system that had the flexibility to manage and attach to all the various optical devices" and would enable possible migration of data as tape technologies evolved, says Conner. The IT department hooked StorServer up to an optical jukebox by Hewlett-Packard to address that need.

Other products usually stage data on one media, and transfer (or back up) to another media. StorServer's concept addresses a key concern for certain end users, says Brad Nesbit, an analyst with International Data Corp., the Framingham, Mass.-based research firm.

"We've certainly seen a trend to address backup, because it's become much more cost-competitive [for enterprises] to back up data to disk and have it stored in near-line fashion," says Nesbit.

Within the next year, Conner says StorServer will be integrated with his company's EMC Connectrix/Symmetrix storage area network, which protects about 4.5T bytes of raw data. The idea is to enable binary transfer of some data though StorServer directly to tape, while alleviating the burden of transmitting data over an IP network.

Click here to learn more about StorServer.

For information on American Skandia, visit its Web site.

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This was first published in December 2002
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