Jul 09 2009

Redo the Data Vault

Deduplication technology lightens the data burden.

Photo: Kevin J. Miyazaki/Redux Pictures
Derek Niedermayer (left) and Bryan Nash of McHenry Savings Bank use deduplication to increase storage, streamline data management and free the company from its old tape system.

Businesses don’t need the annoyance of increasingly costly data storage to go along with a flagging economy. They’re asking their IT departments to find more efficient ways to retain and back up their data. Many have turned to data deduplication technology for the task, finding that it continuously sorts and trims unnecessary or redundant information, saving time and resources.


Deduplication is not a replacement for data backup, says Noemi Greyzdorf, research manager at IDC. Rather, it helps decrease both the data footprint and the amount of media used to store data, Greyzdorf explains.

Ultimately, the technology moves data offsite from backup tapes to disk media, which is more compact and can dramatically cut down the volume of backup tape used, Greyzdorf says.

Deduplication is similar to data compression, but it looks for redundancy of very large sequences of bytes across very large comparison windows.

“Data deduplication technology replicates only unique data and ignores repetitive data,” she says. “It replaces repetitive data with a marker to the original pertinent occurrence.”

In other words, an e-mail attachment won’t be stored 4,000 times when it’s sent to 4,000 recipients. With data deduplication, only one copy of the attachment is stored. If that attachment is 1 megabyte, that’s a data savings of 3,999MB — or about 31 gigabytes — of storage capacity. For businesses paying for magnetic tape storage, eliminating the space required to store all that tape and the time it takes to transmit all that redundant data can add up to substantial savings.

Time Is Money

McHenry Savings Bank in McHenry, Ill., had been backing up image data every day from all of its remote locations. It had been using tape backup from those locations, employing couriers to move those tapes to various locations for storage, says Bryan Nash, senior vice president of information technology at the bank. “We wanted to get rid of tape,” he says. And with the decision boiling down to efficiency and time, the bank chose to switch to data deduplication.

“Using tape to back up thousands of images per day from branch offices at the institution’s data center was a horror story,” says Nash.

The company chose a Data Domain DD510 deduplication storage system. The system uses inline deduplication, which monitors data before it’s stored on disk. Another popular deduplication technique, called post-processing, analyzes data after it’s stored.

The inline capability, coupled with virtual private network connections in a hub-and-spoke network with branch offices, allows the bank to do its daily backup in a flash, says Derek Niedermayer, network support supervisor at the bank. With nonessential data winnowed away, the bank’s storage capacity jumped to 3 terabytes, and data backup took substantially less time.

Ditch the Tape

For Cozen O’Connor, a Philadelphia law firm with offices throughout the United States and in London and Toronto, data storage tape had become a crippling issue. The firm was producing 41 backup tapes per day and sending them offsite for storage. “That meant a lot of man hours and a single point of failure per tape,” says Thomas Markward, network administrator.

Has your company implemented a data deduplication solution yet?

65% We have no current plans.
9% We have already implemented.
6% Don’t know
3% We are currently implementing.
17% We are evaluating options.

Source: CDW Poll of 363 BizTech readers

The firm wanted to centralize backup, storage and disaster recovery, so last December it deployed a deduplication system in its Philadelphia office to replicate backup data from all of its offices on disk, and then transfer it to Chicago instead of transferring tapes among offices. The company met its April 21 deadline to go tapeless, with the Chicago office receiving 4TB of data every night for backup.

At Grey Healthcare Group in New York, “our expenditure on tape went from $60,000 to $80,000 a year to about $15,000 a year,” says Chris Watkis, information technology director. Watkis says the company installed a FalconStor data deduplication appliance two years ago because it found that backing up the growing volume of data in its customer records, marketing information and high-definition video records was wearing down its traditional tape drive and using up to 15 tapes per day. The FalconStor appliance smoothed the process and added more functionality for manipulating and storing data.

Pro-Dex, based in Irvine, Calif., develops and manufactures technology-based solutions that incorporate embedded motion control, miniature rotary drive systems and fractional horsepower DC motors for the medical, dental, semiconductor and aerospace markets.

The company was looking to smooth operations among its offices across the country. It installed three Quantum DXi3500 data deduplication and replication appliances in data centers at its offices in Irvine, Beaverton, Ore., and Carson City, Nev., and networked them for data backup capabilities.

Historically, says IT Manager Jamie Rosewitz, Pro-Dex maintained backups separately at the sites. The deduplication technology let the company coordinate backup software on servers at all loca­tions, increase efficiency and eliminate redundancy.

“First, I looked for a solution that would provide the same level of backups that I had using tape, and I wanted to automatically offsite the data at the same time,” Rosewitz explains. “Second, we wanted to be sure the circuits between the sites could hold the additional data and not hurt production during high usage. Third, it needed to be a good value solution.

“We phased out tape backup and greatly reduced the amount of data that needed to be replicated through the deduplication technology,” Rosewitz concludes.