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Eastern Michigan U Streamlines Backup

Eastern Michigan University has upgraded EMC backup equipment in its data center operations with newer EMC gear. The institution is using both Avamar deduplication backup software and Celerra unified storage for daily backups of data maintained by its mission critical applications, including SunGard Higher Education's Banner, Microsoft SQL Server, and SAP BusinessObjects. Previously, according to a request for proposal put out for the new implementation in February 2009, the university was running EMC's DMX 800, a Celerra SE NAS, and a storage area network switching infrastructure.

According to Lynnette Rose, associate director for enterprise operations, backing up a NAS file system would formerly take four days and frequently wasn't successful. "In addition, we would have to allocate large segments of our existing storage area network to improve our backup process," she said. "This, combined with our processes around backing up information, made it close to impossible to reach our service level agreements on being able to restore the information."

The university worked with Ohio-based EMC partner AdvizeX to evaluate several alternative solutions and develop a plan for streamlining and consolidating its storage infrastructure and backup operations. The university chose to deploy Avamar and Celerra. Using Avamar, the backup window was reduced to four to five hours.

The university, which has about 23,000 students, recently deployed a VMware virtual infrastructure on part of its network. Avamar scans the virtual machines in use, detects the changes at the sub-file level, and backs up the segments that have changed. Owing to this level of management and granularity in deduplicating redundant data, Rose said, the university is feeling more confident about expanding the virtual environment.

"EMC Avamar has enabled us to think differently about our environment--particularly being proactive about our data protection and management of both our physical and virtual infrastructure," Rose explained. "Now, most backups--whether they are databases or file systems--take just minutes to complete because the change-rate on most of our applications is less than one percent. With our VMware environment, Avamar has also made it extremely easy to manage and protect our virtual machines. This has enabled us to reduce the demand on the network and recover disk space previously used solely for backup. We now have the utmost confidence in a scalable data protection architecture that can grow as quickly as the data growth occurring on campus."

In addition, Eastern Michigan U consolidated a number of legacy storage systems onto an EMC Celerra NS-80, which gives IT administrators the ability to allocate and provision storage on the fly. "The robust functionality and performance of EMC Celerra gave us the ability to step back and re-evaluate our infrastructure architecture," Rose said. "As a result, we were able to reduce power consumption costs, improve cooling demand and shrink our overall footprint in the data center."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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