Grafvision - Fotolia

Law firm makes a case for Actifio copy data virtualization

Atlanta-based Sutherland Asbill & Brennan chose Actifio for a specific task, but extended its copy data virtualization for all of its data protection needs.

Law firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP brought in Actifio Inc. copy data virtualization appliances in mid-2014 to help complete a tricky file-system move across data centers. Within a year, the firm ditched Commvault software and adopted Actifio for all of its data protection.

Sutherland, with headquarters in Atlanta, has offices throughout the United States, as well as London and Geneva. David Tefft, Sutherland's director of network operations, said the firm has approximately 1,000 IT users.

Tefft said he came across Actifio when looking for a way to solve a particular problem.

"We had a 70-terabyte file system that we needed to move from our Virginia data center to our Atlanta data center," he said. "We didn't want to physically pick everything up and move it, because we couldn't allow for that amount of downtime. It was litigation-type data -- millions and millions and millions of little files, so a typical backup to tape and restore would've taken too long. We also wanted to protect a legacy accounting system that doesn't have any built-in data protection."

Actifio's copy data virtualization reduces the number of copies an organization needs to store. It keeps a physical golden master for instant use and spins up copies for tasks such as backup, disaster recovery, test and development, and analytics. The goal is to alleviate the need for separate infrastructure for all those functions. After the initial capture, an Actifio appliance ingests only changed blocks of data.

Sutherland brought in two Actifio appliances with 200 TB -- one each for the Atlanta and Virginia data centers.

Tefft said he used Actifio only for the data center move and to protect its accounting system for the first six months, but eventually started expanding its copy data virtualization use for more protection.

"Even when we started demos, it quickly became apparent that we could use it for so much more," Tefft said. "Restoration times were fast, allowing us to meet RTO [recovery time objective] and RPO [recovery point objective] requirements that we struggled to meet with traditional backup. We had a little extra capacity, and tested it for SQL servers and other things. For our next budgeting cycle, we expanded capacity to take over everything else, and we pulled out our older backup system. We've run all our systems on Actifio for about nine months."

Tefft said he was not planning to replace Commvault for backup, but he saw that Actifio was easier to use and substantially faster. Now, Actifio protects Sutherland's approximately 400 virtual machines.

Actifio's copy data virtualization reduces the number of copies an organization needs to store.

"Our recovery time for a server is usually within minutes now," he said. "It's so much faster, especially if you have to restore an entire server. And we use it for a good bit more than just backups now. We'll use it for patch testing. We'll spin up copies of virtual machines and install patches on them to make sure they'll operate OK. We also get an idea how long it will take for service packs, so if we know it will take two hours, we can ask for a two-hour maintenance window. We also will spin up copies of databases for our development team to run tests against the database."

Sutherland recently added the Actifio Sky virtual appliance to complement the appliances. Sky works with iSCSI storage, and the firm will use it to repurpose some of the iSCSI storage it implemented for backup with Commvault software. The Actifio appliances support only Fibre Channel storage. Sutherland's main storage platforms are NetApp and Dell Compellent, and it has a mixture of Fibre Channel and iSCSI.

Tefft said he will probably use Actifio copy data virtualization for another data center move coming up.

"I already have all the data ingested into the Actifio appliances," he said. "I can move the appliance and use it to spit up VMs, and then [VMware] Storage vMotion them back into production storage at the new data center. That way, we don't have to rereplicate all of our data from one data center to another."

He said his biggest complaint about Actifio copy data virtualization was solved when the vendor added a console to manage all the appliances. At first, he had to manage each appliance individually. Tefft's other issue is lack of support for an older server. "We still have a Microsoft SQL Server 2000 database hanging around, and Actifio doesn't have an agent for that," he said. "We have to back up the entire VM instead of doing a database-consistent backup."

Next Steps

University takes advantage of Actifio's copy data virtualization platform

Reduce amount of copies with data management

Copy data management could improve your data protection

Dig Deeper on Backup and recovery software