CATEGORY: Storage

REVIEWER: Duane Ternes, IT director for Electric Lightwave.

BACKGROUND: Electric Lightwave is a major broadband integrated communications provider of data, Internet, voice and dedicated access services to businesses nationwide. The company owns and operates a nationally acclaimed Internet and data network via high-speed fiber optic networks in the Western U.S.

PLATFORMS: HP 9000 UNIX servers, HP Net-Servers running HP/UX and Sun Solaris Servers.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Electric Lightwave builds a high degree of fault tolerance into its Oracle and Sybase database systems and in its EMC and Hewlett-Packard data storage subsystems. However, this protects only against equipment failures. Human error can wipe out critical data that must be recovered. We had been using 8mm tape for backups until four years ago, when a growing customer base and increased service offerings created a saturation point where we had more data than we could back up during off hours. We needed higher capacity drives and increased data writing speed to complete backups within a tight time window. Also, our customer database was too important to support even occasional 8mm drive failures, so we looked for a more robust tape drive design. When we looked at our options for tape technology, we determined that DLTtape technology from Quantum could deliver highly reliable write and read performance on any drive.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We installed eight DLT 7000 drives in two tape libraries made by ADIC and Hewlett- Packard, and they have worked to our complete satisfaction, driven by VERITAS backup and recovery software. After four trouble-free years, a massive increase in our data backup volume caused us to add a new high-capacity ADIC library with 12 DLT 8000 drives. We also hooked all three of our tape libraries into a storage area network using a Fibre Channel interface to speed data flow to the drives during backups.

STRENGTHS: DLTtape backups are our ultimate line of defense against data loss. Our experience tells us that we will always be able to recover lost data, even if someone deletes a file or runs a conversion and corrupts data elsewhere in the system. Also, we feel comfortable with Quantum's continuing commitment to build new drives that can read data written to tape on older DLTtape drives.

WEAKNESSES: DLTtape drives are more expensive than some alternative tape technologies. You have to consider the importance of your data before committing to the significant initial costs you'll face. If you lose critical data while using a less reliable technology and can't retrieve it, it will most likely cost you more than if you had just gone with Quantum DLTtape drives in the first place.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Four years ago, DLTtape technology was the only alternative to 8mm tape you could find that promised the higher capacity, higher reliability and high write speeds we needed to complete our backups in a reasonable time. This year, we were able
to evaluate DLTtape technology against the new AIT-2 standard. While AIT-2 is certainly competitive with its high capacity and high write speeds, we decided to stay with DLTtape drives. Why? Super DLTtape drives, which have just come out, have leapfrogged AIT-2 performance. Second, DLTtape technology is a de facto industry standard. Finally, backward compatibility with existing DLTtape cartridges means we don't have to spend any money to convert existing tapes.

DELIVERABLES: As our database volume and company business files continue to grow, we need faster technology to complete our backups within our narrow scheduling window. We expect to take advantage of the just-introduced Quantum Super DLTtape drives to finish the backups on time. These drives are faster and higher performing, and they will be backward read compatible to DLT 7000 and 8000 drives, making the transition seamless and easy. The initial volume manufacturing of these drives is scheduled to begin by the end of calendar year 2000.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We didn't work directly with Quantum since we actually purchased the drives ­ and the libraries they're installed in ­ from third parties. Our experience with those parties ­ ADIC and Hewlett-Packard ­ has been good, and the vendors move quickly and efficiently to ensure that difficulties are solved without impacting our operations.

DOCUMENTATION: No documentation directly from Quantum because the drives are installed and shipped within the ADIC and HP libraries. Documentation from both of these vendors adequately covers information on the DLTtape drive models we use and allows us to operate them properly.

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