Case Study: Reseller Updates A Storage Relic

Two years ago, the museum added a new wing and renovated a floor to make room for its first science project, Space Odyssey, which included a huge database of information to help volunteers answer visitors' questions, said Shawn Sheppard, director of information technology for the museum. The organization also replaced its old ball-type planetarium unit with a state-of-the-art video-projection model using 11 digital channels.


Xdata's Harrity (right) helped the Denver Museum of Nature and Science's Sheppard solve the museum's growing need for data storage and archiving brought on by new additions.

As a result, the museum suddenly found itself with 7 Tbytes of data being backed up to two Hewlett-Packard DLT autoloaders and four DAT24 tape drives, none of which were connected to each other, Sheppard said.

"We were accumulating so much data, we had to look at how to store and archive it," Sheppard said. "So many choices. We weren't sure what technology to use. One person said SCSI, one said Fibre Channel, another said ATA because of cost."

In November 2002, the museum called Tom Harrity, president of Xdata, an Englewood, Colo.-based solution provider specializing in data storage and backup, about a tape library to centralize backups and recoveries.

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But Harrity soon found things more complicated than expected. "They were looking for a tape library," he said. "They thought at the time it would solve their problems. But as we talked, we realized their backup software was not scaling as needed."

Harrity's team designed a solution including an AIT tape library from Boulder, Colo.-based Spectra Logic, along with NetVault backup and recovery software from San Diego-based BakBone Software. That was the easy part, as Xdata was a long-term partner of both vendors.

The hard part was convincing Sheppard, who had a limited budget and was reluctant to commit to a solution too quickly.

Although the museum was looking for a hardware solution, Harrity proposed the NetVault solution,and Sheppard and his team quickly fell in love with it. "The price fit us," he said. "We loved the interface. We loved the GUI."

Anatomy Of A Solution

A few weeks later, Xdata had to prove the merits of its choice of a Spectra Logic tape library with AIT tape drives. To get the museum hooked on Spectra Logic, Harrity took Sheppard and his team to visit the vendor for a demonstration and arranged for them to talk to other Xdata customers.

"We also talked to other vendors,without Tom's knowledge,to make sure his was the right solution," Sheppard said. "Our budget was so tight, so we had to be careful."

In the end, Sheppard agreed with Xdata's choice of vendors. "Tom knew the solution and decided on the right vendors," he said. "He knew what he wanted. He just had to push us IT guys on the right choice."

The refurbished library with 10 Tbytes of capacity fed by two AIT-2 and two AIT-3 drives went online last May at a cost of around $40,000, which Sheppard called an excellent deal. "Tom jumped through hoops on pricing for us," he said.

Going forward, Sheppard said the museum is considering whether to upgrade to AIT-4 or AIT-5 tape technology. The choice will depend on how fast prices drop.

In the meantime, Harrity said his firm keeps in regular contact with Sheppard and his team. "We sit down with them [and] make sure everything is working," he said. "The last thing we want is a customer calling in a panic."