Foxwoods Puts Money Down on Sepaton VTL

Foxwoods Resort Casino has found a solution to slow backups and restores with a virtual tape library from Sepaton.

With volumes of new data piling up and being collected by its systems, and information backup and restores taking as much as 24 hours to complete, Foxwoods Resort Casino needed more than lady luck to solve its growing capacity requirements.

The casino, based in Mashantucket, Conn., placed its bets on Sepatons S2100-ES2 VTL (virtual tape library) with 60TB and two Sepaton SRE (Scalable Replication Engine) technology nodes to allow its beleaguered tape-based data protection systems to finally produce a winning hand.

Regarded as the worlds largest resort casino complex, Foxwoods is made up of six casinos, three hotels with over 1400 rooms, 50 retail and outlet facilities, more than 7,400 slot machines, and 380 gaming tables.

A collection of computer systems capable of tracking multiple items is responsible for monitoring data integrity, backup storage and server capacity for massive day-to-day operations.

Those systems keep an eye on slot machines, PeopleSoft HR and financial applications, an in-house developed casino management system, and most importantly, E911 and other full-time critical services provided to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation—a sovereign nation which owns the Casino.

Prior to running Sepaton technology, Foxwoods was relying upon an IBM 3494 tape library featuring 3590E drives, and IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for its data backup and restore operations.

Unfortunately, Michael Grillo, principal engineer for Foxwoods, said the hardware proved to be "drastically slow" in terms of retrieving data and required a fair amount of manual intervention to deal with media failures.

Foxwoods runs 400 servers, most on Microsoft Windows, along with 75 Unix-based host mix of Sun Solaris, AIX and some Linux as well.

"Restorations were slow, even under Gigabit Ethernet," said Grillo. "To eliminate the mechanical portion [of data backup and resotration] we looked at different options. One area we considered was making it more disk-related than tape related, and we opted to look to look at VTL."


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Recognizing that Tivoli Storage Manager as an enterprise backup product did not reclaim aggregate data easily with disk-based and file-based storage pools, Grillo said the casinos goal with VTL was to use disk to emulate tape and therefore enable re-aggregation of data recovery.

From a management standpoint, he said that was much easier than running a storage disk pool.

After evaluating Sepatons S2100-ES2 VTL, EMCs Clariion Disk Library and NearTek from StorageTek (now part of Sun Microsystems) within battle-tested development environments, Grillo said that Foxwoods was won over by the restoration speed by Sepatons VTL.

"Our biggest goal, besides minimizing media failures, was speed restoration. We had a single disk array and single unit to emulate tape with. We did the same test comparison between the three companies. What we saw was the restoration and backup speed done by Sepaton was much better than other products," Grillo said.

In fact, Grillo said that previously Foxwoods could take anywhere from up to 20 hours to back up its 2TB of data a night from its IBM physical tape library.

With Sepaton in place, that process has been sliced to under three hours. Going a step further, tape mounts used to take at least three minutes. Now tape mounts occur between 7-8 seconds.

Benefits of that product increase have translated into service desk calls being responded to much quicker, and "less headaches" worrying if media could fail or require extra labor.

Another key feature of Sepatons VTL is it allows Foxwoods IT staff to use the VTL as its primary storage pool with 16 drives.

Since the casino only utilizes 12 drives at any one time, four are always available for recovery without impacting other services and for getting faster tape mounts.


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