When it comes to evaluating technology, nothing speaks louder than the voice of the customer. Vendors can say what they want about a product, but what matters is how it works in the day-to-day world of IT, where everything that can go wrong sooner or later does.
Recently, Syncsort and NetApp jointly sponsored a webinar that featured a user of the NetApp Syncsort Integrated Backup (NSB) solution. Fernando Mejia is the Senior Manager of IT Infrastructure for IPC, which is a Franchisee Purchasing Cooperative for the SUBWAY restaurant stores. IPC helps the 28,000 SUBWAY restaurants in the U.S. and Canada reduce costs by leveraging their collective purchasing power. IPC supplies everything from food to paper goods to IT processes.
Mr. Mejia was kind enough to join us on a webinar that you can view here. A brief registration is required, but it’s well worth it. And here’s a tip: the first part of the webinar is me talking. If you’re familiar with the NSB story then you can jump to the 25 minute mark where Mejia begins speaking. It takes a minute or two for the webinar to load up.
I want to give you a sense of what IPC gained by moving to NSB. Their environment is about 350 servers and 70 TBs of primary storage, most on NetApp FAS 6280 systems. They use NSB to back up that data to a clustered FAS 3160, which is dedicated to backup. Prior to NSB they were using Symantec NetBackup and having major headaches. Nightly incrementals started at 6:00 p.m. and finished up around 6:00 a.m. Weekend fulls started Friday night at 6:00 p.m. and lasted until Monday morning.
This led to problems, as Mejia said:
“It was always a challenge hoping and praying there weren’t any kind of gotchas, like there always are with backups, that would cause that window to extend. And often it did extend beyond the window and ran into standard business hours. And often times depending on which systems were affected we did have an impact on the performance of our systems, and users had a problem with productivity.”
Not only that, but management was a burden.
“We did have one full-time resource dedicated to just managing backups. That person’s sole purpose was to, in essence, babysit the backup process and make sure we were getting successful backups. It was a very labor intensive process.”
Some new applications that were coming on-line and would significantly extend production hours pushed IPC to look for a solution “to meet our needs, particularly the one need of being able to potentially completely eliminate a backup window.”
They got it with NSB. The average backup time for their servers is now between 1 and 15 minutes! The backup window is a non-issue. In addition, they gained a significant benefit from the NSB Instant Virtualization capability. It’s not only useful for recovering systems, but it has dramatically enhanced IPC’s application development efforts.
“We have an in-house development staff and we do develop a good majority of the applications we use… We’re able to leverage Instant Virtualization to bring entire applications, that are composed of multiple servers, from production into our development and staging environment. This minimizes the drift between development staging and production, in turn resulting in much quicker time to develop applications, much more streamlined testing and QA processes, and in the end a lot less issues and problems that make it out into production.”
That’s how NSB leverages the power of snapshots – launch entire applications in minutes using your most recent backup data. And because it’s using NetApp FlexClone to do it, there’s no additional storage required other than new writes to the system.
Maybe the best part of the new solution, however, was the management relief. Rather than the full-time IT resource required before, with NSB:
“It takes barely an hour a day to go over, manage and maintain the entire solution… That was a great win, because I can re-assign those resources that were basically just doing maintenance and operational type work and put them into more important tasks and projects that are more crucial to the organization.”
How is this achieved? Partly it’s how easy the solution is to use.
“NSB’s capabilities of leveraging NetApp technologies as well as being entirely integrated into virtualization technologies allowed us to collapse the amount of administration interfaces into one. That’s one great benefit of the solution. The second great benefit is that it’s extremely intuitive. It’s very easy to get in front of the interface and through a very short learning curve understand how the backup jobs are configured, understand how to perform recovery operations, understand how to generate reports. In the end that resulted in really lowering our operations overhead.”
The other key is reliability. A great deal of backup management ends up being trouble-shooting and scrambling to recover from failed backup jobs. Not with NSB.
“I must say that our job failure rate is extremely low. If I get maybe one or two a week that’s a lot. And usually when we get a job failure it’s a problem with a particular server that was getting backed up. So over time we ended up not having a lot of focus on the backup solution because it just works so well… I remember in our NetBackup days I was hyper-focused on all kinds of detailed information on the backup because it was critical that you were on top of it all the time to make sure it was functioning correctly. With the Syncsort solution that really has changed.”
There’s more I could write, but I’ll leave you to listen to the webinar where you can hear it for yourself. If you have follow-up questions, the webinar will explain how you can get them to me, or just post a comment here.