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Firms see public cloud storage as tape alternative in remote sites

Los Angeles school district and engineering firm Psomas use public cloud storage gateways as tape alternatives for data protection in remote offices.

Some organizations are using cloud storage as an alternative to tape for protecting data in remote sites and eliminate tape in branch offices, including Los Angeles’ public schools department and an engineering consulting firm.

LAUSD implements snapshot-based cloud backup

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) facilities division has placed TwinStrata CloudArray Virtual Appliances in 15 remote locations across the district to back up 80 TB of primary storage to the Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) cloud, said Steve Saitman, senior systems specialist for LAUSD. 

The public cloud backup project was paid for as part of a 10-year, $20 million bond project, and the LAUSD estimates it will save $283,000 over five years. Most of the savings come from eliminating tape and using lower cost commodity servers, he said

The district loaded TwinStrata software on Dell PowerEdge R210 file servers running VMware ESXi. Each device presents itself on the network as an iSCSI host and is attached to a Linux-based file server running Samba to emulate a Windows environment. The CloudArray virtual appliances take snapshots from local hard drives on a daily basis and send them to S3.

“If three days from now, I find a document that is corrupted, I can go to snapshots and restore,” said Saitman.

By moving snapshot copies into public cloud storage, the facilities division within LAUSD eliminated the use of Symantec Backup Exec software and tape at each site.

 “This is strictly mapping drives to a file share,” Saitman said. “As iSCSI storage drivers, there is no heavy lifting. It’s a way to present storage to a file server. We can restore the data from the cloud to any location. We no longer have backup. We snapshot the data and we can roll back to any point in time. We pay for storage as we need it. If I need 10 terabytes, I pay for 10 terabytes.”

Saitman said users access their files the same way as if they were stored locally.

Saitman said he was attracted to TwinStata because it supports iSCSI and it is a virtual appliance so he could install it as software instead of buying another physical box.

“This is our first move into the cloud,” he said. “At the end of three years, we will get new equipment and we will not have to deal with any data migrations.”

Psomas moves DR to the cloud

The Los Angeles-based engineering consulting firm Psomas turned to Riverbed Whitewater backup gateways, which provides LAN-type access to public cloud storage for data protection. Psomas, which employs 500 people, replaced tape at 11 sites with one Whitewater cloud storage gateway and 10 virtual appliances.

 “We don’t like tape that much,” Psomas CIO Chris Pinckney said. “It costs a lot and you have to buy them by the box load.”

Pinckney said he has reduced backup costs by about 40% since he started rolling out cloud devices in March. Before using the cloud, Psomas would send a driver to each location to swap out tapes.

Psomas still uses a dedicated backup server running Symantec Backup Exec. Pinckney said data is backed up to the Backup Exec server, which in turn passes the data to the Whitewater appliances. Whitewater dedupes and encrypts the data and moves it on to the S3 cloud.

If an office stops operations for any reason, Pinckney said the firm could recreate a virtual Whitewater in a read-only capacity at a separate office and then run restores from the cloud using Backup Exec.

“We have a much smoother disaster recovery process,” Pinckney said. “We can get to any data from any office because the data is in the cloud. If we lose office A, we can run restores from office B.”

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