RMIT moves to tiered storage as capacity doubles

To manage more than 50 terabytes of data per month, RMIT University has moved to a tiered storage model where data is backed up to disk and then archived on tape.

RMIT's IT department backs up and stores the bulk of the university's data which includes administrative systems, an online learning system, student records, and e-mail for 7000 staff and 55,000 students.

Tiered storage was introduced to cope with data growth rates of about 20 percent a year.

Paul Morton, the university's IT services data manager, said it was hard to manage when RMIT was backing up only to tape.

"We would set our backups for the night, then come in the next morning and find some hadn't worked, because tapes had failed or gotten stuck," he said, adding that this led to backups being done during the day to get the job done.

"The tape drives were pretty slow and we knew we had to upgrade our storage infrastructure."

Although the university had installed EMC's Networker back in 1998, Morton said in recent years storage capacity had doubled.

The university then moved to Networker 7 which featured disk-to-disk backup capabilities.

RMIT also uses multiple EMC disk arrays leveraging both Fibre Channel and ATA disk drives.

In addition to SANs, RMIT uses network-attached storage (NAS) to assist with file serving requirements.

Morton said using ATA disk drives rather than DLT7000 tapes has significantly improved backup and recovery times.

"The reliability of disk-to-disk backup also means more consistent completion times. There's no morning rush to see what hasn't backed up. We can now meet our backup window rather than constantly missing it," he said.

Networker also does compression at the server end which has yielded big transfer savings.

"Now we can get a 60-gigabyte database down in an hour and a half," Morton said.

"We can recover it just as fast, which is incredibly important for our users."

With Networker 7.2 in use now, Morton said the university plans to upgrade to version 7.3 allowing RMIT to archive to tape from a larger number of disks simultaneously.

"Multi-streaming will result in further speed increases and more efficient backup and recovery," he said.

"Centralization has simplified our operations and Networker covers all the IT department's 150 servers, even though they are from a variety of vendors.

"Backups are no longer a stressful event; everything just works as it should."

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