With its headquarters in San Francisco and offices in New York, Boston, Silicon Valley and Mumbai, India, Thomas Weisel Partners has approximately 550 employees.
Thomas Weisel Partners was encountering backup issues that were not uncommon for multi-site enterprises. They were using tape to backup approximately 8 TB of data located at four locations (New York, San Francisco, Boston and a small, but rapidly growing site in Mumbai, India).
Weekly full backups initiated Friday were increasingly taking longer to complete. Their restore speeds were not mapping to the company’s business continuity objectives. “Our tape systems were 3 years old and we knew we wanted to improve upon our data protection architecture,” says Kevin Fiore, Vice President, Director of Engineering Services at Thomas Weisel Partners. “We decided quite early on to make the move to disk-based backup. The availability of our data is really important to us and we needed to get something faster and more reliable. We’d been working with tape, and we were ready to start over.”
Beyond performance and reliability considerations, Fiore recognized that, in moving to disk, there was an opportunity to eliminate the costs associated with contracts that each site maintained for the transportation and vaulting of tapes for disaster recovery purposes.
Fiore notes that their search for a new backup architecture was quite comprehensive and covered many technologies, including VTLs (Virtual Tape Libraries) which “quickly became pricey when we calculated required software license and ongoing disk costs.”
During the evaluation period, solution provider Integrated Archive Solutions (IAS) introduced them to Data Domain.
Data domain solution
The Data Domain implementation at Thomas Weisel Partners consists of a total of six Data Domain DD 400 Enterprise Series Restorers. There are 3- DD430 Enterprise Restorers for local backup/recovery installed at its New York, Boston and Mumbai offices. The San Francisco data center at corporate headquarters uses a higher capacity DD460 for its onsite backup and recovery.
For disaster recovery, Fiore deployed a combination of “many-to-one” and “bi-directional” replication topologies, using a second DD460 in San Francisco and an additional DD460 in New York. Data Domain’s DD Replicator software was used at all offices to enable network-efficient replication between locations. The DD460 in New York is used to create a replica set of San Francisco’s local backup data. New York, Boston and Mumbai backup locally and then replicate to the second DD460 in San Francisco. Each site retains data locally for a minimum of 30 days. Once a month, data is consolidated to tape.
The massive data reduction resulting from Data Domain’s Global Compression™ deduplication technology enables cost effective local backups for Thomas Weisel Partners’ five offices. However, it also works in concert with the DD Replicator Software to allow up to a 99% increase in network efficiency during remote replication. Over and above the local reduction in data sets, the DD Replicator Software polls the target site prior to the transfer of replication data. If the data exists already, transmission of redundant data is prevented.
As a result of this topology, at Thomas Weisel Partners’ data is always readily accessible for restores from at least two locations, offering the firm exceptional disaster recovery protection. “Within an hour of backup, our data is in synch. We know that, in some worst case scenario, our data is going to be available in pretty close to real time. That’s fantastic for us.”
Thomas Weisel Partners now enjoys a highly reliable and nearly instantaneous disaster recovery capability that was impossible to attain using traditional tape-based backup. The backup timing issues that first drove it to seek an alternative to tape have been resolved, and its weekly backup window has been reduced to less than 24 hours. Fiore reports that the lowest compression rate he experiences from any of his six Data Domain restorers is 18x, this being on his largest capacity replication restorer in San Francisco. All other sites maintain much higher compression rates.
With Data Domain, Fiore was given the lightning fast restore speeds he needed to meet the firm’s business continuity objectives both locally and remotely, tremendously cutting down the firm’s exposure to potential system and non-system based events. In addition, with Data Domain, Fiore gained the flexibility to evolve his on-site retention and backup methodologies to maximize the performance of his new architecture. Centralized management and system automation have reduced the amount time he spends managing backups at the four sites as well.
Finally, tape has been eliminated at three of his four sites and transportation and storage of backup tapes is now a single monthly event (down from twelve times monthly).
“Of everything that came out of this project, it’s the knowledge that our data exists in two locations at all times and the confidence that it’s readily accessible that I find most comforting,” says Fiore.