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Catalogic Software teaches schools to manage copy sprawl

Catalogic Software's ECX Instant Copy Data Management stabilizes NetApp backup and replication for Fairfax public schools, and offers better search for their 100 million files.

The Fairfax County Public Schools' storage manager said his NetApp arrays require less babysitting for data protection since his team installed Catalogic copy data management software.

Fairfax County, the largest public school district in Virginia with an annual operating budget of $2.6 billion, installed NetApp FAS arrays several years ago to replace direct-attached local storage. The district has more than 250 schools and related sites with petabytes of data and thousands of users. Although the consolidation removed dependence on magnetic tape, replication and full backups posed a challenge.

To gain visibility to its NetApp backup storage, the Fairfax school system implemented Catalogic's ECX Instant Copy Data Management. The Catalogic software uses automated policy templates to schedule NetApp snapshots across a primary data center and disaster recovery site. 

'It will just run and correct itself'

Catalogic ECX has reduced manual tasks associated with managing off-site replication, said Stepphon Gayle, enterprise data storage manager at Fairfax County Public Schools. 

"We do a lot less babysitting now," Gayle said. "Prior to using Catalogic, I would have to monitor backup copies every day and resync any that may have failed. ECX gives me an automated report every day of what failed and what didn't. In most cases, it will just run and correct itself. If I need to resync a volume, the index points to the original copy, so I can pull it up and have it available as a backup."

Fairfax's main data center includes eight NetApp FAS systems, more than 1,000 physical servers and roughly 300 virtual machines. Another 2,500 physical servers are spread across the district's facilities. The primary and secondary sites are connected via dark fiber, and more than 50 TB of data gets backed up each day.

Catalogic Software ECX helps to identify older data copies that could be purged, while pinpointing versions that may need backup protection.

The school system's primary data center includes a four-node FAS cluster running NetApp's Clustered Data ONTAP operating system, plus a two-node cluster running ONTAP 7-Mode. A four-node FAS cluster at the backup site receives replicated data from the primary NetApp arrays.

Fairfax County's NetApp storage contains nearly 2 PB of primary data for 220,000 end users, including 186,000 students and about 35,000 faculty and other employees. Catalogic Software ECX helps to identify older data copies that could be purged, while pinpointing versions that may need backup protection.

Catalogic Software launched in 2013 following a spinout from Syncsort. Its ECX Instant Copy Data Management software provides in-place copy data management on NetApp storage and IBM FlashSystem V9000 all-flash and IBM Storwize midrange hybrid arrays.

Catalogic Software offers stability

ECX sifts through multiple versions of a data object to create a searchable index of backup data copies available across storage tiers. One secondary copy provides the root of a directory tree, with additional data copies generated from read-only or writable snapshots.

"Before we had ECX, we found the NetApp vaults to be unstable. Once it lost sync, we had to destroy it and recreate it, which meant losing all backup data we had to that point. We primarily did mirrors as real-time representations of data, but that meant any corrupted volumes got mirrored to the secondary copy," Gayle said.

"Catalogic allowed us to perform data replication and vaulting. We set up our backup policies and schedules, and can have any number of copies we want."

Catalogic Software creates a catalog of mountable recovery points for use in restoring directories, entire volumes or individual files. Gayle said the searchable index allows him to run analytics and improve compliance with service-level agreements.

"We've got more than 100 million files," he said. "Being able to search for a single individual file has been a lifesaver for us."

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