VTL reduces data backup and recovery window at Godrej Industries

Dhwani Pandya, Principal Correspondent,

In 2007, Godrej Industries Ltd., one of the leading oleochemical manufacturers in India, did not have a specific backup infrastructure investment; Reliance Data Centre, which hosted Godrej's servers in its facility in Navi Mumbai, performed backup and recovery activities for the company. However, the imperfections in this process were brought to the fore when Godrej migrated from MFG/PRO to a SAP AG enterprise resource planning solution that year.

Post-implementation, Godrej experienced huge data growth, along with resultant backup and recovery requirements. The data backup technique used at Reliance (which primarily revolved around tape), was not able to meet Godrej's new needs.

"Once it took almost 48 hours to restore a SAP instance," explains Mani Mulki, Godrej Industries' executive vice president of information systems. Due to such limitations, Godrej executives felt the need for a smaller backup window and faster restoration capability -- they also wanted to store data more securely. Hence, Godrej chose to implement its own backup system.

Zeroing in on a VTL solution

The first solution on Godrej's evaluation table was the traditional server to physical tape backup. Roji Joseph, Godrej Industries' manager of information systems, explains that a virtual tape library (VTL) proved more suitable for the organization's requirements.

Generally, a company decides to invest in a VTL to improve the backup performance

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of its existing tape library. In the case of Godrej, the IT team had to start from scratch. The company evaluated VTL solutions from three vendors -- IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Quantum Corp. High security levels, a small backup window and efficient archiving of data were among the main evaluation criteria used to select the VTL solution. "Although the other vendors also had good offerings, we preferred to go with IBM. Our existing storage infrastructure was mainly from IBM, which influenced the choice," Joseph explains. Godrej chose an IBM VTL solution that consists of a VTL (7520 series), Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) and an IBM System Storage TS3500 tape library (which uses third-generation linear tape open tapes). TSM is used for backup (it copies data from the company's servers and storage area network to the high-speed virtual disk). Godrej's VTL deployment has a capacity of 7 terabytes, and Godrej's IT team claims that the VTL is easily scalable in case of an unexpected data surge. After a defined time frame, data on the virtual disk is automatically migrated to the physical tape library for long-term archival purposes.

"There are not many skilled personnel in the VTL space. Hence, we took some time to configure the VTL, as skills were not readily available."
Mani Mulki
executive vice president of information systemsGodrej Industries

According to Joseph, the automated physical tape library offers hassle-free backup with slots for daily, weekly, monthly and yearly backups. Each tape uses bar codes to help the system find a tape's location. Based on the backup policy, the backup software encrypts data while it is being copied from the server to the VTL. It can be accessed by only authorized personnel with a logical key, Joseph explains.

The VTL was implemented in two phases and took almost three months. The first phase involved VTL installation and configuration with the server drives. VTL drive installation was a major challenge for Godrej, as it had to be recognized as a physical tape library by servers. "During the configuration, compatibility with existing infrastructure became a major challenge since we had servers with different configurations. Everything had to be equalized though firmware upgrades." The second phase involved TSM software installation and training the back-end team.

"There are not many skilled personnel in the VTL space. Hence, we took some time to configure the VTL, as skills were not readily available," Mulki says.

Harvesting the benefits of the VTL solution

VTL has allowed Godrej to reduce the backup window to a great extent. "Earlier, five to six hours were spent in backing up SAP data even with a smaller database. Now it takes hardly two to three hours, although the database size is much larger," Joseph says.

According to Mulki, it was essential to have an efficient backup system for SAP and email as part of the risk mitigation strategy. The VTL system now backs up data generated across Godrej's entire IT setup. Faster backups and recovery have also provided additional flexibility to the company when it comes to implementing new IT systems.

Mulki explains, "We have gone live on the new intranet, which is based on Web 2.0 technologies. With the VTL we don't have to build a separate infrastructure to back up the intranet." The VTL solution also ensures faster data restores, since recent data can be directly restored from the disk. Even in situations where archived data has to be restored, it does not take more than four hours due to automated systems. Mulki says he believes the company will be able to exploit this investment for the next six to seven years.