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Agilent implements more agile backup software

Multipurpose technology company Agilent finds that its backup system is quickly becoming outdated.

Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Agilent Technologies Inc.'s backup and storage systems were becoming outdated. David W....

Stan, the company's IT infrastructure architect, said that Agilent's engineers needed faster data restores and 100% access to all product specification data. Agilent also needed more centralized backup and recovery, because its LAN-based environment could not support that.

But Stan also needed his systems to be able to back up Agilent's highly dispersed data environment, including servers and workstations on Unix and Windows NT. Finally, Agilent needed a solution that would support growth in data volume to an anticipated 21T bytes in the next seven years.

Agilent had been using Oceanport, N.J.-based CommVault Systems Inc.'s Vault 98 solution. But a little over 18 months ago, CommVault began migrating its customers to another of its products, Galaxy. Agilent was agreeable to the change because its experience with Vault 98 had been sufficiently positive. And as an existing customer, Agilent got a good deal on pricing and licensing fees, though Stan declined to specify how much they cost.

After implementing Galaxy, Stan found he can now allocate backup and storage costs across more than 300 locations for chargeback purposes. While that specific feature is not standard on the Galaxy solution, Stan made use of Galaxy's improved GUI and strung together a few SQL queries. He can now gauge actual usage on a real-time basis and provide his management staff with information in dollar and byte volume formats.

"This allows us an easy way to allocate these amounts to different internal customers, and they can see what it costs to run their business and the resources they're using," Stan said. "They can then add or remove users or systems as their needs -- and budgets -- dictate."

In addition, Agilent has a network-attached storage (NAS) device that it can back up across a 1G bit/sec LAN at a volume ranging from 40G bytes to 50G bytes per hour. "We could never have gotten [that] with optical platters," said Stan.

When the Melissa virus hit, several of Agilent's general purpose file servers became infected. "In just one night, we were able to restore 20,000 files across these systems so that when people came in the next morning, no work was lost," Stan said. "We could have done all that with 98, but it would have been more time-intensive in setting it up and getting it to run. I doubt we could have done it in the same amount of time."

Galaxy's metadata database also offers users a series of views that help them glean information as they need it. After creating his own query, Stan can pull out information about backup clients and the amount of data they're backing up.

"This allows me to see which systems have the most amount of change in the data that's stored or churning," Stan said. "I can then feed that back to the [managers] of that system and ask if they're aware of it and is it okay."

That's also how the chargeback information is gathered and calculated. Stan said Agilent knows how much it costs to operate all the storage and backup hardware, software and media. "Over a 30-day period, we can determine the percentage of the entire size of the backup that a specific location is using. Then it's a simple amount of dividing it into the cost of the overall backup," he said.

And there's increased demand for the sort of customized reporting functions that Stan has undertaken for Agilent. "IT managers and executive staff want to see business level reporting and not just technology level reporting," said Anders Lofgren, senior industry analyst for Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Mass. In other words, the emphasis is changing to bucks and is not focused just on the bytes and bit-error rates.

Stan would not specify any average monthly costs per location for Agilent, but many enterprises charge anywhere from $5 to $7 per month per gigabyte, according to Lofgren. And while the pay-as-you-go model keeps an eye on any unbridled use, there is a potential downside. "If it gets too expensive, people may not access or delete files as often," Lofgren said. "You want to change behavior so users don't waste capacity, but you also don't want to put data at risk."

That hasn't been a problem for Agilent. "The group as a whole likes the visibility because they have a specific number they can point to" on a monthly basis, Stan said. A small amount of customization gives everyone in the enterprise a little more control over costs, resources and usage.

For more information on Agilent, take a look at its Web site.

More on CommVault can be found here.

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This was last published in December 2002

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