Virtual Tape Curbs xwave’s Storage Appetite

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xwave, an IT service provider based in Newfoundland, increased its data storage capabilities by virtualizing its offsite tape facility using the BrightStor CA-Vtape Virtual Tape System from Computer Associates.

“We can now stack hundreds of virtual volumes on a single high-capacity tape,” says Craig Piercey, senior technical analyst at Aliant/xwave. “Virtual tape eliminates wastage of valuable storage space.”

xwave provides full-service IT services for organizations in the healthcare, government, aerospace, telecom, justice and public safety sectors. The company, which has close to 2,000 employees, has been in business for 38 years and has offices in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

Safe and efficient data storage is a critical component of xwave’s operations, and the company was faced with a challenge. Storage demand was increasing, while the capacity of its offsite data storage vault was not.

The data center included an IBM zSeries 2064-1C3 mainframe running z/OS 1.6 on 6 logical partitions (LPARS), two 2105-F20 Enterprise Storage Servers, an IBM VTS (Virtual Tape Server), 3480 and 3490 tape units, and 3590 Magstar cartridges. The addition of the CA-Vtape software did not require any additional hardware or change to the hardware configuration.

Before the addition of Vtape, approximately 100–200 tapes were being channeled to the offsite vault in the morning and 50–80 in the evening. With Vtape, there are now only eight tapes in the morning and eight in the evening.

How does Vtape accomplish this improvement in storage efficiency? In a nutshell, Vtape cuts the fat out of data storage.

Many applications write single or multiple small files to a single 3490E tape, using only 5–50% of the tape, says Piercey. That means 50–95% of the available tape capacity is wasted. When a virtual 3490E is used and later stacked, only the capacity used is stacked to the high capacity tape.

Using Vtape, the company can now stack hundreds of virtual volumes on one large capacity tape. It redirects tape mounts to direct-attached virtual volumes, allowing for instantaneous mounts and instant recalls. From there, virtual volumes can be stacked efficiently onto a physical tape.

Over time, the increased storage efficiency has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of tapes required for xwave’s overall data storage needs. Prior to the Vtape implementation, the number of tapes stored in the offsite vault was more than 10,000. Today, it is running stably in the 1,400–1,500 range. These tapes are all 3590 Magstar cartridges consisting of full volume dumps (system backups), database backups and stacked tapes containing virtual volumes.

What were the factors Piercey considered in selecting the Vtape solution? The ability to leverage existing hardware investment was a big consideration.

“It would have cost hundreds of thousands more to go with a hardware solution” says Piercey. “As well as the immediate expense of purchasing new hardware, there are additional housing and maintenance costs.”

In contrast, Vtape allowed him to use existing tape and mainframe hardware, as well as existing applications, to implement a virtual tape system.

Scalability is another key feature. CA-Vtape is priced by the number of virtual tape drives required. To increase the capacity, you can dynamically add cache on demand. Implementation of Vtape also reduced the need for manual intervention, freeing up IT resources from the need for creating, labeling and tracking large numbers of tapes, and the debugging of data-related operations.

“The manual effort is negligible compared to pre-Vtape days,” says Piercey. “Our operations staff are able to take on new technical duties and learn new technical roles that in the past they never had time to perform.”

He explains that Vtape enables tapes to be stacked in groups and to categorize data any way you want. After data has been archived, you can move it or store it differently while maintaining the integrity of the data. And Vtape offers instant tape access by redirecting tape mounts to the mainframe.

According to Piercey, “The ROI for Vtape was achieved in less than 12 months.”

A reduction in the need for physical 3480 and 3490 cartridge drives was another side-benefit that decreased materials and labor costs for disaster recovery, reducing operational cost for xwave. Tapes are filled to capacity, keeping the count down and thus reducing the time spent on operations such as degaussing of used tapes.

“As this tape solution expands and matures, I can see its benefits becoming increasingly evident,” says Piercey.

Article courtesy of Enterprise IT Planet

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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