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WAN optimization cuts backup over WAN for DR from 7 days to 1

One wide area network (WAN) manager shrunk the window for his weekly 300 gigabit backup over WAN links for disaster recovery from seven days to one with WAN optimization.

There's an acceptable amount of time that a wide area network (WAN) manager is willing to tolerate when supporting backup over WAN links for disaster recovery (DR) -- one day, maybe two or three if it's a big job. And then there's the situation one WAN manager faced -- seven days to complete a weekly backup of critical databases to a DR site more than a thousand miles away. He shrunk that window down to one day with WAN optimization.

"By the time [the weekly backup had] finished, it just had to completely start all over," said Sean Barnes, IT infrastructure manager at Forum Energy Technologies (FET), which manufactures drilling and production products for the energy industry. "It was just this constant [cycle of] replication that was going on, so we were usually about seven days behind on replications up to the DR site."

When Barnes deployed Dell EqualLogic storage area network (SAN) arrays a few years ago for his data center in Houston and DR site in Denver, data replication went smoothly at first because it was limited to only a few databases for one enterprise resource planning (ERP) application.

But as the volume of data grew and more ERP systems and other applications' databases were added to the mix over the years, Barnes found himself trying to squeeze 300 gigabytes of data down a 3 Mbps pipe once a week. 

"We upped [the bandwidth] to 4.5 [Mbps], which honestly wasn't really even noticeable," Barnes said. "Then we bumped it up to 6 and saw a little bit of a benefit from it, but it wasn't really worth the cost."

Shrinking 300 gig backup over WAN to one-day window

Even if adding more bandwidth would have solved Barnes' DR backup over WAN connection challenges, he was not enthusiastic about indefinitely sustaining that higher operational expense.

"That's when we started looking at the bandwidth optimizers to see what we could do to get the data up there without having to keep throwing bandwidth at it," Barnes said.

He evaluated appliances from Riverbed Technology and Blue Coat Systems, and on the suggestion of his Dell sales representative, he also evaluated Certeon's aCelera virtual WAN optimization device. Riverbed and Blue Coat's products seemed to deliver similar optimization results, but their higher price tags were a turn-off, Barnes said. Those vendors' sales engineers were also not nearly as aggressive in helping with the evaluation as Certeon had been, he said.

By contrast, an engineer from Certeon offered to come on site to install and configure a demo for both virtualized server environments, even returning to develop a custom build to support the backup over WAN demo at Barnes' Citrix XenServer environment in the Denver DR site, he said. Certeon does not formally partner with Citrix or offer standard support for XenServer. 

It just worked flawlessly, and honestly since we set it up, it's kind of been a 'set it and forget it' type of thing.

Sean Barnes
IT Infrastructure Manager, Forum Energy Technologies

On its first trial, aCelera shrunk the seven-day backup to a day and a half, Barnes said. With a little more tweaking, it came down to one day. It has required minimal management since he put it into production in November.

"We could immediately see the benefits," he said. "It just worked flawlessly, and honestly since we set it up, it's kind of been a 'set it and forget it' type of thing ... which is what I was looking for since we run a pretty lean staff and I don't have time to go check in on every single system we have all the time."

Database backup over WAN links to DR site: Just one use for optimization

Although FET operates branch offices around the world, Barnes said a WAN optimization deployment for those sites is unlikely because each has its own local file servers. However, he plans to use aCelera for other initiatives involving backup over WAN connections.   

"After our recent merger, we had another one of our companies [with] a data center here in Houston, and they have EqualLogic arrays as well," Barnes said. "We may end up looking at doing some sort of data replications from that data center to our Houston data center."

FET is also stepping up its virtual server footprint over the next year. Barnes will deploy VMware's Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) to schedule and balance computing workloads -- creating another opportunity to use aCelera for backup over WAN links.

"We may end up replicating actual VMs over to the DR site as well," Barnes said. "There's potential for more data to be pushed across."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer.

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