Viewpoint and 60 second interview

Viewpoint with Dave Lipsey, Ordnance Survey. 60 second interview with Andrew Mackay, Service Birmingham.

Tape sucks - it's official...

'Tape sucks'. I did a double take. Does that sticker at the storage technology exhibition really say 'Tape sucks'? I find myself in complete agreement with a vendor who has a strong motivation to extract money from my organisation. I stop to get the whole story. It's all perfectly simple. Tape sucks. 

Fast forward a year and I am £300,000 lighter, but have dumped all but one of my tape libraries.

When I was running linear tape-open (or LTO) tape libraries for backup, I was averaging 70 per cent backup success. That may mean 60 per cent restore success. Backups running over multiple tapes is efficient use of tape, but if I have a single tape failure, I have lost the ability to restore my 1.5Tb database.

A single media error in the library could stop 20 back-ups completing. Bad media = tape sucks. Ipso facto.

Did you know tape is only 6/1,000in thick? That makes it very susceptible to environmental changes. Picture the scene. It's summer, you take your tapes out of a temperature and humidity controlled environment and throw them into a van on a cold damp day.

By the time you have driven to the data repository site, the environmental changes may have unknowingly damaged your tapes. Unfortunately, you won't know until you have to do that restore in three weeks (or three years if you don't archive).

Now I have 99 per cent backup success. Of that 99 per cent backup I know that I can restore 100 per cent of them. It's so fast at restoring, it's called a restore device, not a back-up device.

I am also able to back-up data in the windows available. I have one server that takes about four days to back-up. The users have got so used to the low performance during backup they have stopped complaining.

The technology I replaced the tape libraries with is a small player called DataDomain. Their devices do real time de-duplication and compression. A lot of this organisation's data is very similar. So similar that we get compression ratios of 50-1. A 10Tb of DataDomain gives us 500Tb of backed-up data.

Ordnance Survey backs up about 65Tb of data per week, so I can keep the data for about four weeks. And the data replicates to the data repository site. It doesn't use much bandwidth, because it's only trickle feeding the compressed data. It's simple, and it works.

My backup system operator has taken to playing golf on a Friday instead of dealing with the failed back-ups and tending to the scratch tape requirements of the library. Monday morning is now a relaxed affair.

To be sure, tape sucks - but not in this organisation.

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