Mary Kay Gets Backup Makeover

When the time came for Mary Kay to boost the capabilities of its storage backup system, the cosmetics giant turned to Sepaton's Virtual Tape Library system.

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.