Storage network centralizes tape backup

By shifting tape backup onto a SAN, MGM Mirage was able to centralize tape management, boost efficiency and reduce costs.

For MGM Mirage's IT department, managing tape backup in the company's fast-growth climate was once as tricky as orchestrating a pirate battle at Treasure Island, one of the company's Las Vegas resorts.

Before 1999, the tape backup operation was decentralized across five sites on three continents. "We were backing up 60-80 gigabytes per site," recalled Ron Pavan, senior systems engineer for MGM Mirage. "It took a dedicated person per property to monitor the backups and do the tape exchanges. Also, since we weren't completing our backups within a 24-hour window, we didn't have reliable disaster recovery."

Meanwhile, the company was steadily acquiring properties, including MGM Grand's acquisition of Mirage Resorts in 2000. Today, MGM Mirage operates 19 casino properties across the U.S. and in Australia and South Africa.

"We realized as a company we were getting so large that we needed to have a centralized operation," Pavan said. A corporate mandate to consolidate computer facilities at our five sites around the world and reduce staffing provided the catalyst to act.

In early 1999, the IT department deployed a SAN designed to give it control of its tape backup and disaster recovery operations. Data from the five sites is now funneled over the SAN to the company's Las Vegas headquarters, to a StorageTek PowderHorn tape silo. By centralizing backups over a SAN, the IT team was able to cut the backup window to 12 hours.

As MGM Mirage continued to grow, with its data doubling every six months, the company deployed four additional SANs.

In 2000, the IT team began looking for ways to lower the expense of offsite tape storage and enhance its disaster recovery capabilities. "We knew one of the few ways we could do this in a fast manner was on a SAN located at two different properties," Pavan said.

MGM invested in a second PowderHorn tape silo and set it up in a facility four miles from the first. Now, data is backed up to tape in one silo, and then copied to tape at the second silo.

Today, Tivoli Storage Manager controls the entire tape backup process using a progressive backup methodology. "You do incrementals forever," Pavan said. "When we were backing 600 gigs a day, that was full backups. We've doubled the data and now we're only doing incrementals. If we had to do full backups every day, we would be up into the 9 terabytes a day range."

There are approximately 3000 tapes split between the two facilities. "Tivoli Storage Manager keeps track of what data is on what tape and the backups are done automatically," said Pavan. "You have the operations department monitoring it for failures and if needed, they perform corrective actions and then go about their business." Failures are infrequent, he adds.

On tap is a plan to move to "LAN-free backups," Pavan said. "We have StorageTek with a backup recovery SAN, and we have four other SANs that are data storage SANs. Our goal by midyear of 2002 is to link all of these SANs and start transferring our backup data over the Fibre Channel instead of through the corporate network." Keeping the data off the corporate network will ensure users will be getting optimal response time on the network.

"We're at 1.4 terabytes today," commented Pavan. "Six months ago we were at 800 gigs a day. Who knows where we're going to be six months from now. So we're trying to be proactive."

For more information about MGM Mirage, visit its Web site.

For additional information about StorageTek, visit its Web site.

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This was first published in February 2002

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