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Pancetera Unite helps Cal EMA handle virtualization sprawl

After a server consolidation project left it with virtualization sprawl, CAL EMA implemented Pancetera Unite to complement IBM Tivoli Storage Manager and help improve data backup efficiencies.

After a two-year project to cut down on 200 physical servers spread across three data centers by turning to VMware Inc., the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) discovered a dark side of server virtualization: the havoc it wreaks on data backup. To help solve the issue, the agency turned to Pancetera Unite to complement its IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) backup application.

"We are living with what people refer to as virtualization sprawl," Cal EMA manager Lovell Hopper said, referring to its 45 blade servers that he estimates will grow to more than 300 virtual guest servers. "When you go to 200 to 300 virtual servers, that is a 50% increase in your overhead and that affects your backup management. From storage perspective you have consolidated and it becomes easy to provision but it also becomes a management and support problem. Your physical costs are lower but your administrative costs are up."

Cal EMA is the state equivalent of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the second largest disaster response team in the United States. Cal EMA has a variety of data to support and archive for decades, including information on physical assets across the state, reimbursement for damages, aid packages, and real-time data collected by satellite across California's 58 counties.

Cal EMA found that when you virtualize your servers, you reduce the cost of managing hardware. But you lose visibility into your backup.

Hopper said Pancetera's Unite virtual appliance gives him more efficient image backups of online virtual machines, reduces the amount of development data he backs up by 75%, and cuts down backup times for virtual machines significantly.

Cal EMA has installed Pancetera Unite into its development environment and Hopper said he hopes to eventually roll it out into its production systems. While Cal EMA uses it with TSM, Hopper said it does not lock him in to IBM's backup software. "It works with anything that backs up a hard drive," said Hopper. "The only thing it does not do is file-level restores. Pancetera is working with IBM to address this for TSM. They are trying to crack into that."

File-level restore has been identified as a pain point for users when performing virtual machine backups and virtualization specific backup vendors are attempting to address file-level restore in a variety of ways.

"At this moment, it's something you deal with in a virtual environment," said Hopper.

At its core, Pancetera Unite is a file system access layer that lets customers access virtual machines in their virtual infrastructure in a single namespace. It looks like a disk drive to any Windows or Linux O/S server, and provides a single access point for virtual machines. All agent operations and workloads, such as backup, security scans, replication and storage migration over the LAN and WAN are performed through Unite.

It's comprised of two parts: SmartView and SmartRead. SmartView provides a single access point that spans shared storage across all hypervisors, showing all data from one centralized point. SmartRead technology eliminates all unnecessary disk I/O. Pancetera claims Pancetera Unite can reduce I/O load by as much as 80%. "With SmartRead, we don't read all the data, just the data is that is in use," said Bart Bartlett, vice president of marketing at Pancetera.

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