CDW improves backup server speeds by 1,000%

Tech retailer CDW consolidated 18 backup servers to an EMC Clariion disk library, radically improving its backup operation.

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Tech retailer CDW Corp. recently consolidated 18 assorted backup servers to an EMC Corp. Clariion Disk Library (CDL) in order to back up data faster, use less tape and increase storage efficiency by eliminating duplicate files.

CDW's backup performance has improved by 1,000%, from 200-300 MB per minute with tape, to 2.8-3.2 GB per minute on the CDL, or about an hour and a half backup compared to eight hours, according to K.C. Tomsheck, senior director of IT operations for CDW. CDW also expects it will be able to reduce by 80% the amount of data backed up onto tapes and reduce by 20% the number of tapes used for backups annually.

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CDW was running an IBM iSeries for back-end operations and warehousing, and about 500 Wintel machines for its human resources operations. That data is now on a combined six or seven EMC devices, including Clariion, Celerra NS502 and Centera devices. The Celerra backs up recent data that is 180 days old, while the Centera is for long-term storage, according to CDW.

In early 2005, two days before the company planned to re-ink a contract with Xiotech Corp., its incumbent storage vendor, CDW signed on with EMC, the agents of which swooped in and made stronger, more specific promises regarding return on investment (ROI), Tomsheck said. Other players in the bid were Hewlett-Packard Co., Hitachi, Data Systems and IBM, and though everyone was considered in the early stages, only EMC and Xiotech were seriously measured.

"EMC really put their skin in the game," Tomsheck said. "Xiotech said, 'We think you'll see ROI in three or four or maybe five years …'"EMC said, 'Here's the formula. We'll tell you how to configure your cache, the number of disks, the size, how to divide those disks up in logical units, exactly how many milliseconds it takes to access data on the SAN, how to configure them.' And they were willing to back it up."

Size counts

"EMC sells more volume so they probably have greater flexibility ... I don't want to say EMC played a price war and won. But salesmen are salesmen," said Joyce Becknell, research director for Sageza Ltd.

"In essence I suspect EMC talked a much bigger picture," Becknell said. "I'm talking about software and support services, such as helping to work out data implementation, design and architectural blueprints. Being able to say, 'We generally find these methods work.' The [EMC's] amount of intellectual property is pretty deep and pretty serious. CDW might have wanted to just buy some disks, but if EMC brought the big picture to the table -- it's probably why Xiotech lost. People might go for price, [but that can be trumped by]. Look I understand what your company is trying to do -- let's do something."

Tomsheck said that in its second year of use, the company is starting to see the savings and aims to break even in the third year following the "more-than-one, less-than-five" million dollar investment. He's declining to be specific about certain contractual details and numbers.

Regarding implementation, Tomsheck said the process was fairly smooth, spanning about five months, with mission critical servers ported within two months and application downtime minimized to weekends.

Talk about information lifecycle management

One example of inefficiency previous to the move was tracking how many employees were savings copies of the same e-mail, which bogged down storage efforts.

"We thought we could save more time, space and money," Tomsheck said. "The first step was to invest in a set of Clariion SANs and get off the locally attached disk servers and start to share that space. Also, having to restore from tape is a big pain. Here, we can keep that for at least five days on the network, so you can go there and restore."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Joe Spurr, News Writer

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