Medical center adopts Quantum deduplication to solve backup challenges

Bend Medical Center deployed Quantum deduplication to address a number of backup challenges, including an aging tape loader and growing backup window.

Chris Hale, who heads IT for Bend Medical Center in Bend, Ore., had a number of backup challenges including an aging tape loader and a growing backup window.

“We were backing up everything we should be backing up [to stay in compliance with state and federal regulations], like medical records, patient data, and other data,” Hale said. “Most of these [records] were kept in large or proprietary databases and individual record restoration was not timely or easy. We had to restore to an alternate location, extract what we needed, then restore/merge only what was needed.”

According to Hale, Bend was backing up to a partition of their SAN then offloading to tape. “After a week on the SAN, data would be offloaded or backed up onto a Quantum Superloader 3 LTO-3 tape loader.”

However, the tape loader was constantly failing. “We replaced multiple chassis, but the backup would pause for no reason overnight, without a warning, so we couldn’t be proactive and stay on top of our backups. Then we ended up doing backups during production hours, which would cause dissatisfied users.”

“We had to go back to tape, which took several days to restore that data. If we needed to restore a directory or files more than a month old, we had to pull tapes, reindex them, recatalog them and then restore them. It took 5 to 10 business days, which was completely unacceptable for our customer base.”

Hale said the backup challenges led Bend Medical Center to begin evaluating other disk backup options along with keeping data on the disk for longer periods of time, which led him to deduplication technology. “We went through a relatively extensive proof of concept that not only included Quantum, but EMC Data Domain and HP SureStore Data Protector.”

He evaluated all three of them by running them side by side for a month. “We came up with speed to backup, speed to restore, ease of use of management interface, equipment, and a number of performance criteria. We talked to each of them about how they performed in our network, the tweaks they recommended and proposals on final configurations. In the final solution, we ended up with the Quantum DXi 6702 deduplication appliance, VMpro software [for virtual server backup], Symantec NetBackup [for physical servers].” Hale says that Bend never considered Symantec’s NetBackup appliance as a single, integrated product.

The DXi dedupe also shortened their backup window dramatically. “We were literally able to cut our backup windows from weekends when we did full backups of 23 to 30 hours down to single-digit hours. Instead of being hampered in backing up only minimally necessary data, we could do snapshots of data multiple times per day and also start doing bare-bones, bare-metal backups. We went from backing up 2 TB a day to a 10-fold increase of backing up 20 TB of data. On the Quantum device, we achieved 20:1 deduplication.”

He went on to say that the integration with VMware was an important factor in their decision. “It really came down to not just price, but performance, ease of use, and what really sealed it for Quantum is the software and tie-ins to VMware. We’re about 80 percent virtualized so tie-ins to our VMware hosts were critical and APIs that VMware make available to vendors were critical. The way we take advantage of them is we can back up devices during operating hours and users don’t even notice.

“HP has their combined HW/SW package, EMC has theirs, but Quantum does not,” he said. “They have VMpro, but that only handles the VM side, not physical. The other options were given additional consideration in the evaluation process due to their integrated SW/HW suites.  Even without this, Quantum was still the better solution. ”

Hale says that he found the HP lacking for VM backup, but felt the EMC NetWorker was on par with vmPRO.

Tape remains in the equation

“Don’t ignore the tape aspect of the overall backup solution. If you have a good tape solution, don’t forget it, but stay with it, Make sure you know how the tape solution integrates with the backup appliance,” said Hale.

Many organizations repurpose older tape libraries for long term retention of infrequently used data, but because they were having issues with their LTO-3 library, Bend went a step further and deployed a new library as a part of the overhaul.

“Our new tape library, a Quantum LTO-5 i40 Scalar, connects directly to the DXi. We don’t need to maintain separate servers, a separate SAN, or a separate anything. It was very easy to integrate,” said Hale.

Overall the process was a success, according to Hale. One thing he wished the DXi did better was encrypt data at rest. Another downfall to the product line was its lack of integration with a software suite, he said. 

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