Victor Nemechek

Case Study: Using Cloud to Improve Backup Operations

Blog Post created by Victor Nemechek on Nov 16, 2016

Lots of IT organizations are integrating Cloud into their backup environments. Most are using Cloud as a secondary storage Tier (behind their backup appliances) for backups that are 14-60 days old. A few are using Cloud as the primary storage Tier for operational recovery. And some are using Cloud for long-term retention and as a way to once and for all get rid of magnetic tapes.

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I recently visited a customer that has had great success using Cloud to improve their backup operations without having to make any radical changes in their current environment, people or processes. This case study will explain what they are doing and how it has helped improve their data protection operations.


This customer is a large and rapidly growing company that provides medical services in a large number of locations. Armed with an experience staff and the most advanced technology (most of it from Hitachi), this IT organization was successfully managing operations in their multiple data centers and dozens of branch offices. However, one of their new service offerings presented them with a rapidly growing challenge that they had to get control of before it overwhelmed their capabilities.


The launch of a new medical service into the industry was so well received, customers were rapidly added. The service required the company to store multiple ultrasound and/or or X-ray images, each of which were many megabytes in size, for each patient each time they had an examination. When patients came in for an appointment, radiologists would need to pull up ultrasound and/or or X-ray images from the previous 3-5 prior exams. So, the system not only had to store thousands of very large files, but also had to be able to retrieve dozens of those files rapidly when needed.


Not expecting such rapid customer acceptance, the initial system was sized at only 30TB capacity, but with data growing at almost 2TB each month was reaching maximum capacity. With additional customers coming online soon, the company was expecting another 200TB of data in the next 6 months. Storing the data was not an issue as the cost of primary storage was factored into the price of the service. However, since the company drastically underestimated the rapid adoption of the service, they didn’t consider the impact the amount of data generated would have on the backup environment. With such a huge increase in the amount of data, backup servers were strained and backup appliances were pushed over the limit. Most surprising was the cost of additional expensive software licenses for the backup application itself.


The people who had set up the cost model didn’t understand the cost of the backup environment, which skewed the rates dramatically. Those costs would either have to be eaten or passed on to customers which would result in lost business. Both choices were unacceptable and a better solution had to found and found quickly.


The company turned to Hitachi Data Systems for help. HDS data protection experts worked with their IT organizations and decided to implement a hybrid Cloud solution based on Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) for the storage of all ultrasound and/or or X-ray images. Two HCP systems were installed, one in each of their major data centers. Not only are each of the HCP systems self-protecting, they also replicate to each other for an extra level of protection. Since the HCP systems do not need to be backed up, not additional costly backup application licenses are required. In addition, the company leveraged the HCP Cloud solution to archive stale and rarely accessed data. This decreased the amount of data being backed up by over 30% increasing backup performance and further decreasing the amount of expensive licenses required.

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Although this is not technically “Backup to the Cloud, by integrating HCP Cloud storage into the existing backup environment the customer was able to improve the performance, reliability and efficiency of backup operations. More importantly, the cost savings delivered by HCP Cloud were significant.


The company is also now well positioned for the long run. In the future the HCP system could be used as a target for the backup application and enable the customer to move away from using magnetic tape for Disaster Recovery protection. Since the HCP system is also highly scalable, it can grow over time as needed to support the business. Additional G10 or S30 HCP nodes can be added to scale throughput and/or scale capacity independently as needed.


So, although “Backup to the Cloud” may not be the right choice for you right now, integrating HCP Cloud into your existing backup environment can improve the performance, reliability and efficiency of backup operations. More importantly, HCP Cloud can deliver significant cost savings and lower the overall Total Cost of Operations for most IT organizations.