BACKGROUND: A non-profit consortium of physicians and hospitals in the Atlanta area, Promina Health serves one in four metro residents and is the largest community-based health system in the state of Georgia. Promina's operations are spread over more than 15 hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities.

PLATFORMS: Promina Health IT infrastructure is made up of 120 NT and Novell servers.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Given the critical nature of healthcare, keeping this network up and running and eliminating as much downtime as possible is crucial. I assumed responsibility for Promina network backup upon the organization's formation in 1994 and established what proved to be a highly effective backup protocol. Of the 30- plus Promina servers that perform backup, each has its own Exabyte 8mm tape drive that runs a full backup nightly. For quite a while, this system was ideal for meeting Promina's backup needs. But then, things began to change. The organization's data store experienced explosive growth, and the majority of Promina's servers reached an average size of 25 gigabytes. Our backup regimen was endangered. Backups were taking too long, lessening network availability time for Promina's end users; and the efficient simplicity of one tape per server was no longer practical, let alone possible. Our servers just outgrew the Exabyte 8505 tape drives. Network backup at Promina was nearing a state of critical condition.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Mammoth offered us storage technology continuity. The fact that all of our old tapes are compatible with the newer ones was a real plus. In addition, the transition to Mammoth presents no new operational techniques. This is a real time saver for busy network professionals. The organization's network must be available to its health care workers virtually all day every day, and quicker backups and restores help to facilitate this. We're just astonished at how fast Mammoth is. We're very pleased with it. With Mammoth 2 coming out in mid-1999 and our storage needs growing, we look forward to integrating the new drive into our backup operations.

STRENGTHS: In addition to its much higher capacity, Mammoth's rapid rate of speed (it's six times faster than the previous-generation Exabyte 8mm drive) has also been a boon for Promina.

WEAKNESSES: A weakness in Mammoth is the SCSI interface data rate when data compression is turned on. With data compression turned off, the SCSI data rate is 20MB/sec, but with compression on, it drops to 10MB/sec. In some higher performance systems, this can cause a performance bottleneck. Mammoth 2 will correct this problem and permit a full 80MB/sec data rate with compression on or off.

SELECTION CRITERIA: I have worked with and trusted Exabyte 8mm technology for years, and Mammoth offers a high reassurance level. Since we already had Exabyte tape drives in place, the choice to upgrade with a new Exabyte product was obvious. Exabyte drives have been a very stable product for us, and there's just no reason to look elsewhere.

DELIVERABLES: Mammoth has added to Promina's backup process ­ the backup time has been cut more than in half to just 2.5 hours with our 18- gigabyte server. The tape drive has compressed capacity of up to 40 gigabytes per data cartridge and a very fast, six megabytes-per-second transfer rate. We want to keep to the standard of a single tape for each drive and not have to go to a second tape in order to complete a backup. Mammoth's increased capacity solves an immediate problem for us.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Exabyte's support during pre- and post implementation was satisfactory. We had 24x7 support if we needed it, but never did. The best part of working with Exabyte has been the fast delivery and follow up.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is easy to understand. Even though Mammoth is new, we don't have to take time out from what we're doing to learn how to use it ­ it's that easy.

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