As a prime contractor to the U.S. federal government, BAE Systems puts data protection high on its list of IT priorities. To protect data at its Herndon, Virginia data center, the company had relied on traditional tape library systems. The data centre performed nightly full backups to four tape libraries, totaling 16 tape drives and 120 available tape slots, then storing the tapes offsite.

Over time, however, the tape libraries became increasingly unreliable, according to Chuck Berninger, Director of IT Operations for the Herndon data center.

“As our backup needs grew, we found that the number of tape failures was just becoming unbelievable,” he says. “Every night we had two or three backups that didn’t complete properly because of a tape error or tape library problem. It just wasn’t working for us anymore.”

VTL doesn't suffer tape device problems
Berninger came across an article in an industry publication on virtual tape storage, including Sepaton’s Virtual Tape Library (VTL) products.

“I was intrigued by the VTL concept. This was exactly what we were looking for,” Berninger recalled. He contacted Sepaton and sent his lead backup technician for a first-hand demonstration of the company's S2100¬ES Virtual Tape Library. “He was very impressed with the quality and performance of the S2100,” Berninger said. “It’s well¬tested technology in a well¬designed package.”

A key advantage of the S2100, according to Berninger, was the ability to continue using his existing backup software, Computer Associates’ BrightStor ArcServe, with no change in backup routine. After considering things he decided that the S2100 offered a way to achieve the trouble¬free overnight backups he needed. He could then use the tape library to produce auxiliary copies for offsite storage at leisure during the daytime, when staff would be on hand to address any problems. “With our backup safely on the S2100, we would be protected,” he said.

Installation and cut-over
Installation of the S2100-ES went without a hitch. The unit was up and performing backups within a day. Berninger said the flexibility of the S2100 enabled him easily to configure the 14TB unit into 100 virtual tapes of 100GB each.

“It’s a very well¬engineered product. The S2100 integrated right into our existing environment and we just started migrating backup jobs over to it,” he said. He took a cautious approach, migrating less critical systems first, but, “Within a few days, we saw that the S2100 was working beautifully, so we proceeded with wholesale migration.”

Berninger says a key advantage of the S2100 was what didn’t change: “The ArcServe backup software sees the S2100 as a normal tape library. You set up backup jobs just as if you were writing to tape, so there’s no change in process. That’s important because we have a lean staff; training time is hard to come by.”

Even more important, overnight backups now finish properly. Berninger says the data center has not experienced any failures since installing the S2100: “That’s behind us now.”

Backup windows slashed
Long backup times are also a thing of the past. Berninger reports a 50% decrease in backup windows with the S2100. He says scheduled restores have shown even greater acceleration.

In addition to eliminating middle-of-the-night pager calls, Berninger says the S2100 has made BAE’s Herndon data center more efficient.

“We’re no longer wasting time troubleshooting tape issues. Now we can focus on getting the job done,” he said. “The technicians responsible for our backups also have other things to do - they can’t be bogged down chasing down tape problems. Everything’s moving a lot smoother now.”

Berninger was so pleased with the performance and reliability of the S2100 that he installed a second one several months later.

“Our data requirements continue to grow and I need to stay ahead of them,” Berninger says. “As our backup needs grow in the future, we’ll be calling Sepaton.”