Admin Alert: Change Your Tape Drives, Change Your Tape Management Costs
April 1, 2009 Joe Hertvik
One shop I work with went through a tape drive revolution with two recent hardware purchases. They went from using several different tape drive formats to using one higher speed backup format for all locations. Here’s what they found out from the experience, and how a simple tape drive upgrade helped them lower their operational tape management costs.
Before the Upgrade
In late 2007, a mishmash of tape drive styles dominated this shop’s backup capabilities in the company’s data center. One System i 520 machine with two partitions (production and development) used two Ultrium LTO tape drives to back up its data. The production partition backed up its data to an Ultrium LTO 2 unit, while the development side used a breadbox style LTO unit. System and daily backups generally used two to four tapes per backup.
A System i 550 machine (which also contained a production and a development partition) used even more primitive backup technology: twin IBM 3590 tape drives with 10 tape autoloaders. The company used six tapes whenever it performed a full system backup on either partition.
Two years ago, the company brought in a third System i 550 machine that was configured as a Capacity BackUp (CBU) machine for one of the production partitions. This machine had an IBM TS3200 Tape Library unit with one IBM Ultrium 3 tape drive in its chassis, so the tape drive was dedicated to backing up the CBU. If the company needed to restore information from the CBU’s Ultrium 3 backup tapes to its companion production machine, it would disconnect the fiber CBU-to-Ultrium drive connection and connect the production partition to the Ultrium drive for restoration. A full system CBU backup fit on one Ultrium 3 tape.
The shop was utilizing five different tape units with four different tape formats. Because three of the formats (LTO, LTO 2, and 3590 cartridges) used multiple tapes for their backups and because the tapes were stored off-site, they sent tapes out to an information management company in one medium storage container every day. The vendor stored 51 different containers for the company each month.
To make matters worse, the CBU was scheduled to be housed off-site so the shop was losing its ability to move information between the CBU and the production partition by using the Ultrium 3 drive.
Building on Newer Technology
The solution to the mess was tape drive standardization. The shop decided to buy a second IBM TS3200 Tape Library configured with two Ultrium 3 tape drives in its chassis. Although it was tempting to go with the newer Ultrium 4 drives in the TS3200, the company decided to stay with Ultrium 3 drives to maintain compatibility with the existing tape drive (they also got a good deal). In addition, the shop decided to buy an IBM Brocade 200E fiber switch with 16 ports, so that they could share the two Ultrium 3 drives between their various production and development partitions.
With this configuration, the i5/OS administrator could standardize their tape drive setup and reduce tape handling costs. Here’s how they did it.
Buying a TS3200 with two Ultrium 3 drives and an IBM Brocade switch turned out to be a great move that helped the shop lower its tape management costs. By investing in new capital equipment, the shop was able to realize the following yearly operational costs and benefits.
The end result is that for a one-time capital request, the shop was able to:
One final note: even though I discussed achieving these results with IBM equipment, this story is not meant to be an implicit endorsement to only use IBM products. All of the benefits described here can be realized with any number of products on the market. The moral is that if you’re thinking of standardizing your tape drive format, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that it may create a number of ripple-effect benefits for your shop and for your company, if you just set up your configurations correctly.