Kingston University serves around 23,000 students from its four campuses in Kingston-upon Thames, Surrey. More than 2,000 staff in seven faculties, from art to engineering, provide undergraduate, postgraduate and research courses. Behind the scenes, the IT network supports
more than 7,000 computers, with a total of 240TB in the data backup.
The University had been using tape systems for data backup and archive for some time, resulting in more than 100 tapes on weekly rotation. Because a great deal of the academic and research data has continuing value, there were limited opportunities to reduce the total volumes, which were exponentially growing.
Roberto Volo, Head of Infrastructure and Information Services, explains, “With the growth in data volumes, staff were close to becoming ‘tape monkeys,’ constantly monitoring and managing the storage situation. Bearing in mind that you can never eliminate the risk of tape or drive failure, it was clear that this was an unsatisfactory way of working.
“Additionally, a restore test was difficult and expensive to complete, and involved a significant service interruption. Matters came to a head when we realised that an upgrade of the tape solution would cost more than £150,000 for the drives alone. Since implementing the virtual tape libraries the University is now able to recover data comfortably at speeds approaching 180 GB per hour. We were already working with Tectrade on monitoring services, and asked them to review our data management strategy with a view to providing a long-term solution.”
The first step was to switch to the Tectrade Helix Protect Offering, starting with Backup Report and Monitoring service and subsequently moving to a full Backup Managed service. Tectrade takes on responsibility for operating backups, ensuring backup integrity and success, and proving that the restore capability meets the agreed recovery point and recovery time objectives.
While Tectrade’s Helix Protect removed the day-to-day management workload from the Kingston University team, the underlying challenge of managing ever-increasing data volumes remained.
Under the Helix Protect agreement, an immediate practical step implemented by Tectrade was to take advantage of advanced de-duplication technology, and deployed EMC Data Domain appliances to de-duplicate data at the binary level. This technology reduced physical disk capacity requirements for the backup from 240TB to 40TB – in some cases achieving compression ratios of better than 80:1.
Tectrade installed the EMC appliances at Kingston University’s two main data centres. If disaster strikes one of the sites, a full restore is possible from the second site.
The University had been managing its data with IBM TSM, with per-device licensing. Tectrade migrated the University to a capacity licence model, which does not require a matching of devices to licences. The capacity-based model has reduced the University’s total licence fee payable, and eliminated the management workload.
Tectrade configured the TSM software to see the EMC appliances as virtual tape libraries and then removed the physical tape systems, releasing a whole server rack of space. In this vastly simplified landscape, backup data is sent to the virtual tape libraries, de-duplicated and then replicated to a secondary device at a DR location. This completely removed all the manual tape handling and challenges associated with managing physical tape systems which previously equated to half an FTE. All the backup hardware is monitored and managed by Tectrade via secure VPN as part of an overall managed services framework.
“The defined SLAs with Tectrade were created to manage our collective performance,” says Roberto Volo. “We have never had to act on a breach of an SLA, and the first we ever hear of an issue is a call from Tectrade to say that someone is looking at a specific operational area for improvement. Tectrade offers a proactive approach to storage management, designed to eliminate or mitigate the effects of storage issues from the customer.”
The partnership with Tectrade has transformed the Kingston University data management landscape. As well as the backup environment Tectrade also manage the SAN infrastructure with an SRM as a Service offering. The majority of the original infrastructure has been retained; with storage devices re-purposed using virtual storage engines (IBM SVC) to provide virtual storage volumes.
While the total backup volume has been reduced dramatically, through space efficient technology, the key to more effective data management is the comprehensive monitoring, alerting and reporting service. This helps to optimise availability, performance, service quality and capacity utilisation. Tectrade manages service calls, raises service desk tickets and manages issues through to resolution, requiring no intervention or management time from the University.
Based on the results delivered for the backup data, Kingston University and Tectrade are reviewing de-duplication for online data, too. Tectrade is responsible for agreed SLAs, while the University team is free to focus on the proactive delivery of staff and student IT support.
Roberto Volo concludes, “Tectrade has become one of the most valued IT partners for Kingston University, working with us to solve current issues and address future potential problems. Tectrade gives us confidence in our data management strategy, and control over our precious budgets.”
Kingston University needed to find a way to manage, store and back up a total of 240TB of backup data. The costs of adding storage devices and tape drives were unsustainable, and this approach did not address the basic issue of data duplication and unmanaged growth.
Tectrade developed a comprehensive data management strategy, based on incremental backups, de-duplicated data and advanced reporting software. The service is monitored and managed by Tectrade for Kingston University, using EMC Data Protection Advisor and the backup software used is IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) under a capacity licence model backing up around 260 servers with data generated by over 40,000 users.
Kingston University focuses on serving student and faculty needs, while Tectrade provides a complete data management service. Data de-duplication allows the 240TB of backup data to be stored on 40TB of physical disk, avoiding the need to buy additional storage devices. Virtualised tape libraries have replaced tape libraries, eliminating the expense of moving and managing more than 100 physical tapes on weekly rotation.