Two IT Execs Meet Data Management Challenges

Posted 03-26-2013

Two IT Execs Meet Data Management Challenges

By Paul Hyman 

During the eight years Tracy Riggio has been an IT manager at Temple University Health Systems, the amount of data collected by the academic medical center has skyrocketed from 18 terabytes in 2005 to 1.8 petabytes today.

And at American Municipal Power (AMP), a wholesale supplier of power for municipal electric systems, vice president of information technology and CIO Branndon Kelley recalls that at one time AMP had utilized 22 processes to capture backups for all its systems.

What the two IT professionals have in common is that they are now both using CommVault's Simpana software solution to meet their data backup and recovery challenges. But the tales they tell of their data management strategies are considerably different.

Riggio wasn't involved with Temple's decision to install the CommVault solution as it took place 10 years ago, two years prior to her hire. She is aware, however, of the difficulties her employer was facing a decade ago when it was determined that CA's ARCserver Backup wasn't providing the functionality the institution required. What it needed, she says, was a platform that was easy to use and one that could adapt to the tremendous growth Temple anticipated.

Indeed, 10 years later, Temple's computer network now serves 7,000-plus users whose needs include health care, grant research and higher education, among others.

Five years after installing the Simpana software, Temple decided to expand its use of the product beyond simply backup and recovery to incorporate some of its newer features, including archiving and eDiscovery, which enables a quick search, selection, encryption, and retrieval of archived documents.

Several times a year Riggio archives off to secondary storage much of the data not being used at the moment, which reduces the amount needed to be backed up on a daily and weekly basis. And she uses the eDiscovery function to give her the ability to access the archived data.

"In a hospital, all the data—archived or not—needs to be available instantaneously," she explains. "Imagine not being able to quickly access the records of a patient in an emergency room. That's not an option." And, she says, not every vendor's software is capable of doing that.

At AMP, Branndon Kelley participated in the decision to integrate the CommVault solution. He stepped into his role as CIO in 2010 and immediately ordered an inventory of the company's backup and recovery process.

"I learned that it took us 22 different processes to capture an entire server environment backup," Kelley says. "I told my team I wanted a 'single pane of glass' that could solve the entire problem and, more importantly, perform an easy recovery. Because being able to back up without being able to quickly recover is as useless as having no backups at all."

He issued a request for proposal, interviewed up to 12 vendors, including "all the major players," and decided to sign CommVault, going live with them in October 2011.

While he chose not to reveal the companies he spoke to, major players in the backup and recovery space today are CA Technologies' ARCserver Backup, EMC Avamar and NetWorker, IBM TSM, Symantec Backup Exec 2012 and NetBackup 8.5.0, and CommVault.

Two IT Execs Meet Data Management Challenges

"What we determined was that, if we signed CommVault, not only were we going to be able to solve our core problem, which was backup and recovery, but we could put in a system that allowed us to archive, as well as to utilize their eDiscovery component."

Kelley recalls that AMP was "in a huge growth mode, especially since we were building a number of power plants, and so we knew that the data would be growing by leaps and bounds. We anticipated that archiving was going to be an increasing problem for us down the road."

For Kelley, the vendor selection process involved creating a list of and prioritizing AMP's needs and then scoring each vendor on its ability to meet those needs, including:

  • Does the software provide an easy, integrated solution, such as "a single pane of glass”? All of Kelley's systems—whether they be Windows, Linux, Oracle and so on —need to be backed up on one system.
  • Is the product the vendor's core business? All of its R&D money needs to be spent improving and supporting that product.
  • Is the product hardware agnostic? Kelley wanted to purchase software, not hardware, and the software needed to run and function similarly on any type of server.
  • Is the product easy to administer? "It took about 24 hours each week to deal with the original 22 processes," says Kelley. "Today we spend about four hours a week. That's a $60,000 per year savings right there. And we no longer need an outside consultant to refresh our QA, dev, and test environments each Monday; it's now automated. That's another $60,000 a year savings."

But, says Kelley, the priority wasn't to save money; it was to make sure AMP has a very secure, robust product that, in the event the company's data needed to be recovered, it was recoverable.

The system proved itself almost immediately.

"Within the first two weeks of having CommVault go live, one of our core critical applications went down," Kelley recalls. "And we were able to recover the system in four hours, losing only five minutes of transactions. If we had had those original 22 systems in place, I estimate recovery would have taken us days. We would have not only lost transactions, but we wouldn't have been able to process new transactions during that period. I'd say that day, the product paid for itself."

About the Author

Paul Hyman is a freelance technology writer and editor. He was an editor-in-chief at CMP Publications (now United Business Media) and currently reports for such publications as Communications of the ACM, IHS’ Electronics360, and CRM Magazine. See an archive of some of his stories.