Mary Kay Gets Backup Makeover

By Brian Fonseca  |  Posted 2005-05-23

Mary Kay Gets Backup Makeover

From our faces to our bodies, careers, homes and even families, sometimes the entire country seems preoccupied with extreme makeovers. Lets face it—weve become obsessed with perfection and have little tolerance for anything less. It should come as no surprise, then, that companies in the beauty industry are equally focused on results.

That was the case for cosmetics giant Mary Kay Inc. when the time came to boost the capabilities of its backup performance to solve several issues. The company weighed the option of whether to buy additional tape drives or to invest in Sepaton Inc.s S2100-ES VTL (Virtual Tape Library) system. In the end, the decision was to get the most bang for its buck—and go with Sepaton.

"Im big on performance and knowing numbers behind my backups. As it turns out, for basically the same amount of money, I could invest in additional tape drives, or I could just buy [Sepatons VTL] product," said Michael Czuwala, Unix administrator for Dallas-based Mary Kay. "Its a tickler for me to say that backups can be spread from 30 to 40MB per second to 100[MB]. Thats a big deal for me."

Big deal, indeed. Mary Kays IT department runs an environment featuring Microsoft Corp. SQL Server databases and 250 Windows clients and Unix servers totaling approximately 8TB of full backup capacity.

Mary Kays path toward Sepaton began when Czuwala said he wanted to grow the resources of his NetBackup Version 4.5 software from Veritas Software Corp., of Mountain View, Calif. Czuwala said he initially wanted to lend some leftover budget dollars toward the purchase of six LTO (Linear Tape-Open) drives to give his storage fabric a much-needed face-lift.

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Most important, Czuwala said he needed to improve throughput performance for his disk-to-disk SQL Server database backups. Severe throughput limitations had forced Mary Kay to shelve a critical Veritas NetBackup SQL Server agent, which, in turn, led to increased manual operations during tight backup windows.

"When we first looked at using the NetBackup SQL Server agent, we seemed to be bottlenecked at about 32MB per second. We couldnt get much explanation from Veritas on what that was or what we were going to do," said Czuwala. "The SQL Server DBAs [database administrators] werent willing to allow backups to go from 3 hours to 8 hours. So unless we could find a way to really speed backups significantly, we were probably not going to go back to that architecture, using SQL Server agent."

Customers typically use the SQL Server agent because they dont want to have their local disk space on the client to hold the backup, since the backup must still be transferred to tape. That can lead to any number of headaches should a database restore need to occur, Czuwala said.

When Sepaton, based in Marlboro, Mass., approached Mary Kay about its VTL technology, Czuwala said the cosmetics manufacturer leaned on its relationship with its channel partner and systems integrator, Adexis, to help guide its revamped backup course.

"After I saw the [Sepaton] product, I said, Who do you work with locally?" Czuwala said. "I use Adexis to do a number of backups, so I said it would be a fine fit. Relationships are pretty keen in those areas. You hate to just go to another vendor or channel partner—you dont know about delivery, expertise or how they will be able to correct things that need to be fixed," said Czuwala.

Steve Coupland, a senior account executive for Adexis, a division of Cranel Inc., based in Columbus, Ohio, said Mary Kays storage situation was "unique" because the company was attempting to bridge the gap between its existing but leased LTO-1 drive and the emergence of stronger disk-to-disk-to-tape LTO-2 technology.

Next page: Storage experts speed up Mary Kays backup.

Storage Experts Speed Up

Mary Kays Backup">

"As an expert in storage, we can prove our value to our clients. Weve probably seen their configurations in the past and know what works and what doesnt work," Coupland said. "Our value is really understanding storage because we probably have done it before, and we can share our experience with customers and earn credibility and prove ourselves."

"In Mary Kays situation, they were still running Veritas NetBackup 4.5, while [NetBackup] 5.1 has advanced features that make disk-to-disk-to-tape easier. Sepaton was a perfect fit because it allowed them to do disk-to-disk-to-tape much easier than 4.5," said Coupland.

Mary Kay has since upgraded to NetBackup Version 5.1. "[Sepatons S2100-ES VTL] is going to allow them to do backup to tape during the day, as opposed to trying to rush and get it at all done at night. This allows them to get it done much faster."

Before the Sepaton installation, Czuwala said that his LTO drives could squeeze anywhere from 15MB per second, if the data was completely compressed, to 45MB per second. After the deployment, he can archive data at speeds up to 120MB per second.

"In the end, tape only moves at so many linear feet per second—thats a mechanical limitation. It turns out that by using a virtual tape drive, its just capable of doing much faster rates," said Czuwala. "If backups are three times as fast, now you dont occupy as much time in that maintenance window to do the backup. Some people make a conscious decision and say, I cant afford an 8-hour window, so Im not doing that backup."

Adexis already had a relationship with Mary Kays IT systems group. Sepatons VTL system also won over Mary Kay with its ability to perform image duplication. That process involves multiplexing, in which administrators take multiple backups and write them together to the same tape drive to fragment the backup.

According to Czuwala, multiplexing to off-site copying has become exponentially easier with the increased backups because he no longer has to wait for each tape to spool or read through the data.

"Doing multiplexing to off-site copy, the tape can only read at so much per second," Czuwala said. "What I found on Sepaton was that we may write backup at 80 or 90MB per second, but well do go-through at 120 [MB per second] at image duplication and write that onto tape, so its just a much better use of tape drives right now."

Mary Kay runs its primary storage backups on the Sepaton VTL. Its secondary storage backup is performed on the existing Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) L700 tape library featuring 10 LTO drives. Czuwala said that eventually Mary Kay would like to run its primary backup to Sepaton and then turn around and duplicate that to on-site and off-site tape copy operations, leaving the backup image to then expire on Sepaton.

For areas hed like to see Sepaton improve upon with its technology, Czuwala said that hardware compression routines are needed to maximize storage capacity configurations.

According to Mike Worhach, president and CEO of Sepaton, the company is developing new content-based compression technology as well as Synthetic Full Backup and remote site backup.

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