Backup Times Tumble for CDW

A storage upgrade linchpinned by EMC's ILM gear slashes backup times for the IT merchant.
Like many small companies experiencing rapid growth, CDW, a provider of technology products and services, was unable to keep up with management of its storage systems, especially as the number of orders the company fulfilled grew.

Add the increasing amount of data produced by internal departments, and the signs of strain were starting to show. Compliance and disaster recovery also weighed on the company, as did accounting for data as it ages, or in industry parlance, information lifecycle management (ILM).

To solve these growing pains, CDW enlisted storage provider EMC. The end result was a storage infrastructure that not only grows with the company, but one where technical staff doesn't have to wrestle with slow and unwieldy backup systems.

A couple of goals drove CDW's decision, according to K.C. Tomsheck, the company's director of IT Operations. Besides the desire to achieve "more and more centralization," it boiled down to "how can we facilitate this kind of growth and still maintain our costs."

Performance was also a factor, particularly for this high-transaction environment. "Local storage was outperforming the SAN," admits Tomsheck.

So in late 2004, CDW and EMC began a project that would ultimately consolidate data from a motley collection of 18 servers onto the new storage platform. In time, recovery times would also fall from six hours or more to a mere 15 to 20 minutes.

The first phase of the project began with the installation of a Clariion Disk Library (CDL) 700, forming the groundwork of a new disk backup design. Phase 2 centered on the ILM piece of the puzzle wherein the software components were fleshed out, including core document management from Meridio.

Disk-to-disk backups fly by at 2.8 to 3.2 GB per minute, whereas tape crawled at speeds of up to 300 MB per minute, a 1,000 percent improvement. This turned a job what would have taken all night (8 hours) and cut it to a more palatable 1.5 hours, which works well for a company that now performs database backups every night and is able to keep "multiple copies right on disk," says Tomsheck. CDW was also able to cut the number of tapes it consumes annually by 20 percent.

Addressing disaster recovery concerns, the company utilizes hardware mirroring on the Clariion CX700 SAN array, which houses mission critical applications.

Though its critical data is now safe and within easy reach, CDW has found a repository for all of its data says Tomsheck, including the "simple stuff" which encompasses "the whole suite of Office documents, contracts, all our email..."

Another side effect of the EMC setup is that CDW can now run business intelligence and analytical applications faster and with increased frequency, indirectly benefiting tech provider's bottom line.

Though CDW was able to achieve solid performance gains, the project's success is also being measured by another advantage it lends to the bottom line. Says Tomsheck, "we were able to come up with a plan that reduced our costs."

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