REVIEWER: Richard Baldwin, CEO of Nth Generation Computing, Inc.

BACKGROUND: Nth Generation Computing, Inc. is the leading enterprise storage integrator and consulting company in the west, with more than 250 storage-area network (SAN) installations. Nth is based in San Diego, California, and serves the western U.S. with offices in San Diego, Irvine and San Jose, California. Nth provides a total solution to Fortune 500 companies that want a single company to provide services ranging from needs analysis and assessment to hardware and software implementation of SANs and enterprise backup solutions (EBS), along with disaster recovery (DR) planning and knowledge transfer. Training with Nth University can also be provided.

PLATFORMS: Our mission-critical business applications run on Windows 2000 Advanced Server and utilize active directory, Exchange, SQL, FileMaker Pro 6.0, Visio, MS Project and Citrix. Our test and development labs run HP-UX, AIX, Solaris, Linux, Netware, Open VMS and Tru-64 UNIX. All of our servers attach to an HP StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array 5000 (eva5000) with 3.5TB of storage via an HP StorageWorks Network Storage Router 2402 to our SAN fabric.

PROBLEM SOLVED: In the past, Nth has relied upon a number of standalone DAT, DLT and small SDLT libraries to perform nightly backups of our 3TB of data. Many times backups did not complete because of exceeding the capacity of a single tape and the need for an operator to change the media. In addition, locating and loading the correct tape for a restore was difficult and time-consuming. The SAN-attached HP StorageWorks ESL9322 tape library allows us to provide high-speed backups and restores to both our production and test environments within a single automated library without operator intervention.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The StorageWorks ESL9322 tape library ensures that our data is always available. It offers the ultimate in a high-capacity, mission-critical, unattended backup and restore solution. The ESL9322 offers the most efficient use of space, power and cooling in approximately half the footprint of other comparable products. The StorageWorks ESL9322 tape library has eight LTO Ultrium 230 hot-plug drives that can perform multiple simultaneous backup streams and change media without operator intervention. All eight of our hardware platforms are supported within a single ESL9322 tape library. The speed, capacity and reliability of this product have insured that our backup is complete and on time each night without operator intervention.

STRENGTHS: The StorageWorks ESL9322 tape library is engineered for maximum uptime. It is completely redundant with multiple power supplies and fans and can hot swap a failed tape drive, power supply, etc. while the unit is in operation. It can also be upgraded to the future generations of LTO drives such as the newly announced HP StorageWorks Ultrium 460 tape drive and future generations of LTO technology. Through these upgrade paths, we know that our investment will always be protected and that our changing business needs will always be met.

WEAKNESSES: It would have been nice if the StorageWorks ESL9322 tape library supported mixed media where it could share both SDLT and LTO drives and media in the same library. This would help us with our legacy data that is still in DLT format.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We wanted a product that was highly scalable to more than 300 tapes and could be supported in a multi-operating- system environment and one that could be compatible with our StorageWorks SAN. We also wanted the ability to easily export up to a dozen tapes per night for our offsite backup location. We investigated other vendors, but the HP StorageWorks ESL9322 tape library was clearly superior.

DELIVERABLES: The StorageWorks ESL9322 tape library has an easily readable touch screen LCD control panel that allows any function to be performed manually such as importing or exporting tapes.

VENDOR SUPPORT: HP hardware installation was a snap. The unit was nearly plug-and-play once the shipping brackets were removed and the unit was plugged into our SAN fabric. HP also provided excellent software support to help us implement our backup software from VERITAS.

DOCUMENTATION: Although the StorageWorks ESL9322 tape library comes with excellent documentation, you can easily operate it with the LCD control panel on the front of the unit.

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