Case Study

Data deduplication technology boosts Shoppers Stop’s backup strategy

Mitchelle R Jansen

It was in 2011 that leading Indian department store chain Shoppers Stop first faced concerns related to inefficient data backup. With operations spread across 51 stores in 22 Indian cities, Shoppers Stop has huge amounts of data spread across its locations. Gopakumar Panicker,

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the deputy general manager for IT at Shoppers Stop explains that frequent loss of data residing on laptops and desktops used to create major operational challenges. To preserve and protect data spread across its machines, Shopper Stop decided to evaluate data deduplication technology as a cure for its backup woes.

Shoppers Stop has several end users who travel and maintain all their data on laptops (like business development and marketing teams). Loss of archived data due to crashes and high recovery times made it impossible for end users to resume work within acceptable timeframes. Issues due to the high investments spent on recovery were complicated further by low backup success ratios. “We required a robust backup mechanism. Hence we chose data deduplication technology,” says Panicker.

Data growth was the second concern for Shoppers Stop. The retail player witnessed a 30% increase in data every year. “It was not possible for us to continue without compression and data deduplication technology,” says Panicker. “Earlier, we provided end users with 80 GB of space on laptops. Then it rose to 150 GB. Now we provision 300 GB of space on laptops.” As a result, Shoppers Stop started its search for a data deduplication technology that fulfilled four major needs:

  • Protection of the executive’s critical data
  • Zero solution overheads in infrastructure
  • Intelligent and effective solution
  • Least maintenance and management required for the solution

After much deliberation and evaluation exercises Shoppers Stop finally found a data deduplication technology that matched its expectations – EMC Avamar. The data deduplication project started in August 2011, and EMC’s consultants were involved in the implementation. Shoppers Stop’s internal team conducted a 30 day proof of concept exercise to decide feasibility. The data deduplication implementation went live in September 2011.

As part of phase one, data deduplication has been deployed on NAS, desktop and laptop data, which resides in Sify’s collocated datacenter located at Vashi, Navi Mumbai. “We have a phased roadmap which lists out the different target areas,” says Panicker. Shopper Stop has deployed two EMC Avamar application modules: laptop/desktop backup and NDMP file server backup. The company has nearly 3000 clients in its environment, of which 300 are being backed up daily. Of these 300 machines, 90% are at Shoppers Stop’s corporate office in Malad, Mumbai — the rest are spread over other locations.

As opposed to other data deduplication technologies, EMC Avamar does not carry out file-based backups. Instead, this data deduplication technology employs a change-based block backup. After the initial full backup of systems, only changes are backed up daily. “Backing up huge files like Outlook and archived data takes time. Our deduplication technology rollout enables an efficient form of data backup, as it only replicates changes made to files,” says Panicker.

Huge backups typically hamper system performance. In this context, Panicker says that EMC’s data deduplication technology enables better resource utilization without performance hits.

The trip

Handling huge data volumes and the one-time full backup without hampering laptop and desktop performance proved to be the biggest challenge for Shoppers Stop’s team. The company employed a systematic approach to address this issue. All end users were asked to handover the devices to the IT team to install the backup tool. End users were also made to back up all their data on a CD. “We opted for a CD backup to eliminate issues during backups of huge data files over the WAN,” says Panicker. At present, only changes to the files are backed up from clients.

After deployment of the technology, Shoppers Stop has seen 70% deduplication and compression of data. This means that duplicate data which earlier amounted to 70% of the organization’s total data underwent deduplication and compression. The company saves on storage investments, due to the cumulative onetime backup size of 4 TB. Shoppers Stop has also seen a major difference in terms of data recovery. “Depending on data size, the recovery is complete within two hours,” says Panicker.

Data deduplication technology lets Shopper Stop conduct policy-based backup for different sets of users. These granular policies let the company define several backup parameters. “We don’t have policies for different business units like Hypercity and Shoppers Stop. We are able to create policies as to the kind of backup to be taken for different users, how long to retain files, or the time assigned for each backup,” explains Panicker. The policy is configured to ensure minimum post implementation maintenance. The data deduplication technology solution is managed by a single administrator, with EMC’s built-in Avamar Administrator as the management tool.

The new implementation was accepted well by Shoppers Stop’s end-users. “The previous solution had many failure cases, with a low backup success ratio. Our new solution provides a very high success ratio without creating performance bottlenecks,” says Panicker. As part of Shoppers Stop’s future roadmap, the implementation’s second phase will extend deduplication to areas like backup of VMware images and other data.