Customer Success Story – AWWU
Tough Test, Top Score: High Praise for Quantum DXi from Alaskan Utility
As a public agency, Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility follows a formal process when it invests in technology infrastructure—setting up specific criteria and ranking competitors based on their ability to deliver the most value at the lowest cost. So when the Alaskan Utility decided to upgrade its data protection system, its search for the best solution was rigorous and precise.
After circulating its criteria in a Request for Proposals (RFP), AWWU carefully weighed a
number of factors in competing responses, rated each with a score and selected the vendor which accumulated the most points. Quantum’s DXi-Series disk-based backup solution with deduplication technology was the winner.
Long Backups, Slow Restores And Costly Tape PurchasesHeadquartered in Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility provides services to almost half the state’s population. This responsibility is shouldered by 290 employees who operate and manage $700 million worth of infrastructure, including 1,600 miles of underground pipe, four treatment plants, 18 wells and a number of reservoirs.
The data the Utility generates—whether it’s customer payment records or quality assurance test results—is information that must be safeguarded, both for instant access, if a file is lost, and for longterm retention related to compliance and disaster
recovery requirements. Backing up the data, however, became a challenge with the utility’s antiquated setup, according to Howard Marsh, AWWU’s CIO/Information Technology Director.
“As the CIO, my role is to look at future business needs and devise a strategy to take care of those needs,” says Marsh. “When protecting data, our goal is to have a system that allows us to restore data within five minutes. We need technology that will capture data, safely store it and then, if needed, restore the data in a quick and efficient manner.”
Before deploying the DXi® system, AWWU’s backup efforts were falling far short of Marsh’s goal. Two tape libraries took up to 72 hours to run a full backup, meaning it could not be completed over the course of a weekend. Restores were a laborious process of locating the correct tape, finding the data on the tape, and hoping the data had not been corrupted or lost due to stretched or broken tape. In addition, the ongoing purchase of tape cartridges was a big issue.
With the benefit of a comprehensive background of understanding in data centers and computing technology, Marsh had a head start identifying what was needed. The DXi system’s promise of deduplication, with its ability to reduce data volume and speed up backups, was very attractive.
“Keeping current with new technologies comes easily to me,” he says. “I understand how things work, both intuitively and through experience.”
Combination Of Factors Leads To Selection Of DxiAWWU put together an RFP that went far beyond comparing price and capacity. Marsh wanted a solution that would be easy for employee training and system management, as well as a vendor which would stand behind its product and be responsive with technical support. Structured Communications Systems, the largest infrastructure integrator in the American Northwest, selected Quantum to partner in developing a response to the RFP. Based on the first round of scoring proposals, Quantum was one of two top vendors selected for an in-depth discussion with Marsh’s staff and ultimately emerged with the highest rating.
Working through Structured, AWWU first purchased two Quantum DXi5500 appliances but soon added two DXi7500 Express systems when it became clear that more capacity would be required to manage continued data growth. Right on schedule, the Quantum solution was smoothly installed and brought online.
“We wanted our staff to be fully functional from day one, so we were pleased that we had the opportunity to train our staff before implementation began,” says Marsh. “We built a migration plan for moving data to the new system to ensure nothing would be lost. Then we verified the plan with Quantum before implementation began.”
Dxi7500 Express: A “Rock-Solid” SolutionToday, AWWU uses the DXi7500 Express systems as virtual tape libraries in conjunction with Symantec NetBackup for Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server backups, while the DXi5500 appliances are used with Oracle Recovery Manager (RMAN) for backing up Oracle databases. Marsh and his staff have instituted a DXi7500 schedule that includes daily incremental and weekly full backups, as well as regular data transfers for disaster recovery and long-term retention. They use the DXi7500 Express replication feature to transfer data between one DXi7500 system and the other at a remote site six miles away and Symantec’s NetBackup Vault Option to migrate data to a Quantum Scalar® i500 tape library each quarter.
The benefits of deploying the DXi7500 Express system have lived up to Marsh’s expectations. Weekly backups now take less than 24 hours instead of 72 hours. Deduplication has reduced backup data volumes by a ratio that ranges from 18-to-1 to 23-to-1, and restores that once took hours now only take minutes.
“The benefits include stability, lower cost, less time managing the system and a shorter backup window,” says Marsh. “We’re able to use less power, buy fewer tapes and not pay overtime for operating a labor-intensive system. I believe AWWU feels the data is better protected than before. For me, I sleep better at night because I don’t have to worry about it.”
Marsh is glad Structured brought Quantum into the deal and feels the selection of Quantum was the right choice—one he would happily make again. The company has been responsive to requests for assistance, resolved issues promptly and has worked well as a partner with the Utility. “I couldn’t ask for a better vendor and partner,” says Marsh. “I appreciate their dedication to customers. Their product is leading edge and they stand behind their product, which is hard to find. If you want a rock-solid solution to work in your environment, I would suggest you look long and hard at Quantum because I don’t think you’ll find anything better.”
The overall factor pertains to cost savings. They no longer have to pay maintenance and repair costs for the old phone system. Hospitals are always moving, growing, or expanding; in the future, MCMC may build another hospital building, so the ability to adapt to growth is also a key factor.