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Consolidation helps unify management company's backups

Consolidation helps unify management company's backups

i2 Technologies Inc. provides tools and services that help companies manage their supply chains. Its customers are some of the largest companies in the world, and they represent virtually all industries.

But, when it came to managing its own exploding storage operation, the company's concerns revolved less around boosting storage capacity and more on centralizing daily data backup.

When Ty Young took over as backup and recovery manager in 1999, i2 was in the midst of a growth spurt that had already begun putting stress on the company's data infrastructure. i2 had been adding new client servers at its Dallas headquarters and at offices around the world to keep pace with astronomical growth, necessitating expensive purchases of hardware and support licenses. At its height, i2's computing enterprise included more than 2,800 client machines.

This complex environment was powered by multiple operating systems, including Windows NT and Windows 2000, AIX, Tru64 and Solaris. Its Unix and Windows NT divisions each had their own storage area networks (SANs) and were responsible for backing up their own data. Other parts of the company used direct-attached storage technologies.

What i2 lacked, however, was uniformity among backups. "We set out a number of years ago to create an enterprise backup solution where customers, including developers, product managers, marketing people -- anyone who owns critical data -- could come to us and ask us to back up their data with some kind of frequency," says Young, who oversees the backup portion of i2's storage operation. "If they needed it backed up every day, we backed it up every day."

That ad hoc approach worked for a while, until it became clear that i2's backup needs were starting to interfere with data retrieval for production, especially as the company grew to have more than 1,000 employees. "We very quickly grew to this huge structure of backing up thousands of client [machines] and tons of terabytes worth of data -- and lots of tapes," Young says. "We were spending lots of time going back and forth to our off-site media-storage provider, and pretty soon it got out of hand."

Young says i2 began looking for a product that would dovetail with its multiple aims of reducing licensing costs, accommodating future growth, and boosting productivity. One of the first products it examined was one it had been using since 1996: the Legato NetWorker architecture, produced by Mountain View, Calif.-based Legato Systems Inc. The product acts as a central repository for storing data and arbitrates among an enterprise's various storage resources. Legato claims the same control and interface can be used for major desktop platforms, including Unix, Windows and NetWare, as well as direct-attached, network-attached and SAN environments.

i2 uses nine NetWorker servers around the world to back up between 20T and 25T bytes of data each week. Globally, Young says, i2 goes through 300 to 400 digital linear tapes a week, swapping the tapes out of about 1,200 machines. About 80% of the firm's machines get backed up incrementally each day, with full backups occurring weekly.

One of the advantages of NetWorker, Young says, is its ability to allow multiple streams of data to be written to the same tape simultaneously. "That's saved us a tremendous amount of time" by standardizing and automating backups of mission-critical data, he says.

This has also produced cost savings, he says, by enabling more data to be consolidated on fewer backup servers. At one time, as many as 12 backup servers were in operation, Young says, whereas now i2 uses only eight servers for its global enterprise. That also enabled i2 to take about half of its 2,800 clients out of production.

Scalability has been addressed as well, especially in the company's local area network (LAN). Rolled out with 20 servers, the LAN has grown to accommodate more than 400 servers. The same NetWorker appliance used to back up the original 20 servers has been able to handle 800% growth, Young says.

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For information on NetWorker and other Legato products, visit the company's Web site.

Click here to learn more about i2 Technologies.

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This was last published in January 2003

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