Leveraging Storage Capacity To Create an Electronic Vaulting ServiceWritten by Bob Luedeman Saturday, 17 November 2007 23:05
With their tremendous data storage resources going unused (a 10 percent utilization rate) until the digital broadcast industry gets into full swing, Speer Communications saw the opportunity to leverage one of their core competencies, digital storage, into an entirely new industry. This resulted in the formation of a wholly-owned subsidiary called World Wide Digital (WWD), whose corporate mission is to outsource data vaulting services. The market for these new services includes companies that need to efficiently protect information resources, but do not want to incur the related high capital and labor costs.
With communications costs falling, labor overhead rising, and data volumes soaring, electronic vaulting is an industry whose time has come. By simply connecting a corporate LAN to a communications line, WWD clients can easily, and cost-effectively, transfer their data files to our secure facilities. This achieves two fundamental objectives: First, clients can create a resource that restores any subsequently lost files. Second, and equally important, clients can achieve off-site storage of these resources, a function that would otherwise require two entirely separate sets of backup tapes, plus the added expense of an off-site storage vendor.
We needed a system that could automate the entire storage process, as well as all cataloguing and labeling of tapes. The system had to support the services we wanted to offer, including end-user restores, hierarchical storage management, and data archiving.
It was important to us that any solution under consideration provided multi-platform support. Unless the storage system could support a wide range of client platforms, our target market would be severely limited. We wanted to optimize our opportunity for success by supporting as many platforms as possible, including all varieties of Windows NT, Windows 95, UNIX, NetWare, and Macintosh.
Furthermore, the storage solution had to meet this multi-platform support requirement with a client/server model. It was important that our clients could get up and running with our service as quickly and as easily as possible, and the best way to reach this goal was by simply implementing client software at their site. This software could then communicate with the storage server software at our facility.
Another critical concern for us was support for our existing storage resource, a StorageTek 9310 Powder Horn with a capacity of 3.5 terabytes. We originally selected this system because it can be flexibly engineered with a variety of tape drives and slots. We wanted a storage management solution that could support the full flexibility, and all of the robotic capabilities, of this storage facility.
One other key requirement was multi-threading. It was our intent to base our services on large storage management servers, each of which will support multiple clients. This approach is far more cost-effective than creating a separate server for each client. Therefore, being able to concurrently stream data from multiple sources was essential.
After a thorough market search, the only enterprise storage management solution we identified that met all of our requirements was Legato NetWorker from Legato Systems, Inc. (Palo Alto, California). In addition to meeting existing needs, this solution provided us with a future growth path through their Legato GEMS interface. With the Legato GEMS module we will be empowered to provide a browser interface to our clients. This capability will reduce our overhead by eliminating the need to implement client-based software, and, as a result, we will be able to price our service even more competitively.
Armed with this solution, we are now in the position to provide our clients with access to their files within eight minutes. By comparison, unless they had their own enterprise storage management system implemented, it could take days to build up a server and load tapes. It is this efficiency that we believe will be the key to our future success.
With the ability to provide fast and easy backups and end-user initiated restores, WWD is now developing strategic relationships with ISPs who may want to enhance their offerings with storage management services. In addition, we are pursuing relationships with traditional disaster recovery vendors who may benefit from the ability to have data teleported. With all data easily accessible through the detailed logs created through Legato NetWorker, identifying and transmitting files electronically via satellite can be the fastest path to recovery after a disaster.
Just like digital broadcasting, the electronic vaulting industry is in its infancy. The key to success in either of these market sectors is developing an infrastructure that can support evolving needs. With our massive robotic data storage capacity, and Legato NetWorker as our enterprise storage management system, WWD is confident that we will be able to meet the future needs of both of these markets.
Bob Luedeman is the Director of Information Systems at World Wide Digital in Nashville, Tennessee.