Consolidation, Efficient Storage Are on the Priority List for MultiCare Health System Sys Admin

Eric Zuspan, senior system administrator, SAN/Unix, at MultiCare Health System, is looking to make his organization's storage more efficient through the use of a VTL solution while planning for forever.

By: Eric Zuspan

Eric Zuspan, senior system administrator, SAN/Unix, at MultiCare Health System, is responsible for systems in four data centers and 500TB of data supporting 10,000 employees. He ensures that patients and employees have continuous access to patient files, appointment schedules and life-saving medical information. He's also tasked with ensuring that the data is backed up, retained and restored in compliance with the stringent requirements of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Do more with less; consolidate.

With power consumption increasing and space in our data center at a premium, we will replace multiple tape libraries and disk-based systems with a single enterprise-class VTL (virtual tape library) system. This will not only save space, but will also simplify the complexity of our environment by enabling us to consolidate backups of data from mixed environments (that is, Unix, Windows and open systems). By choosing a solution that automates disk subsystem management, tens of petabytes of backup data can be managed by just one of our administrators, saving us thousands of dollars in the cost of maintenance and administration. A consolidated backup environment also minimizes the potential for human error.

Demand pay-as-you-grow scalability.

Our data volumes are growing quickly. Even with deduplication enabled, we will need to add performance and capacity over time to maintain our backup windows and SLAs (service-level agreements). As we are also moving more of our tape operations to VTL systems, we need to scale our VTL system without having to overbuy capacity or performance or to install multiple independent VTL systems. We want a system that enables us to add performance and/or capacity as we need it, in modular increments.

Get the speed we need.

As our data volumes grow into the hundreds of terabytes, we need to deduplicate it and back it up faster to stay within our backup windows. Our first priority is to move data to the safety of a backup VTL as quickly as possible. Faster backups are not only essential to reducing risk of data loss, they also relieve our administrators of tedious management tasks and reduce the risk of data loss during the backup process. Inline deduplication is adequate for SMB-sized backups, but it slows backup too much for enterprise backups. We will implement technology that can back up, deduplicate, store and restore enterprise-class volumes of data at unimpeded wire speed. These systems balance backup and deduplication processes across multiple nodes, and deduplicate data outside the backup stream for optimal performance.

Make restores easy.

Backing up data efficiently is only half the job. Our patients, physicians and other medical professionals need fast access to patient records, medical files, test results and other data. We need to maintain SLAs and business continuity requirements by restoring lost or damaged data quickly and easily. We will use a system that keeps a copy of the most recent backup in its non-deduplicated form and replaces older duplicate data with pointers forward to this most recent backup. As a new backup is performed, it replaces the previous one and pointers are adjusted accordingly. As a result, a request to restore data is performed instantly with little or no reassembly required.

Plan for forever.

Health care regulations require long (sometimes forever) retention times. They also require us to be able to restore data quickly at the patients' request. Backup media can wear out or age. Restoring from tape can take days when you factor in the time required to call them back from archive, transport them, load them and read data back linearly. Long retention time on some disk-based solutions requires the use of many individual "silos of storage" that have to be managed and maintained separately. Instead, we will look past short-term solutions that increase complexity or add manual tasks. We will choose a backup solution that is designed for long retention times with features such as high capacity, fast performance and data deduplication that does not slow backup or restore speeds over time.