Tape is dead, Long live Disk!

Except if you're using HP Data Protector.

Much as I'd like to jump on the backup-to-disk de-dup bandwagon, I can't. Can't afford it. It all comes down to the cost-per-GB of storage in the backup system.

With tape, Data Protector licenses on the following items:
  • Per tape-drive over 2
  • Per tape library with a capacity between 50 and 250 slots
  • Per tape library that exceeds 250 slots
  • Per media pool with more than some-big-number of tapes
With disk, DP licenses on the following items:
  • Per TB in the backup-to-disk system
Obviously, the Disk side is much easier to license. In our environment we had something like 500 SDLT320 tapes, and our library had 6 drives and 45 slots. We only had to license the 4 extra tape drives.

Then our library started crapping out, and we outgrew it anyway. Prime time to figure out what the future holds for our backup environment. TO DISK!

HOLY CRAP that's expensive.

HP licenses their B2D space by the Terabyte. After you do the math it comes down to about $5/GB. Without using a de-duplication technology, you can easily make 10 copies or more of every bit of data subject to backup. Which means that for every 1 GB of data in the primary storage, 10GB of data is in the B2D system, and that'll set us back a whopping $50/GB. So... about the de-duplication system...

Too bad it doesn't work for non-file data, and kinda sorta explicitly doesn't work for clustered systems. Since 70% or so of our backup data is sourced from clustered file-servers or is non-file data (Exchange, SQL backups), this means the gains from HP's de-dup technology are pretty minor. Looks like we're stuck doing standard backups at $50/GB (or more).

So, about that 'dead' tape technology! We've already shelled out for the tape-drive licenses so that's a sunk cost. The library we want doesn't have enough slots to force us to get that license. All that's left is the media costs. Math math math, and the amortized cost of the entire library and media set comes to about $0.25/GB. Niiice. Factor in the magnification factor, and each 1 GB of backup will cost $2.50/GB, a far, far cry from $50/GB.

We still have SOME backup to disk space. This is needed since these LTO4 drives are HUNGRY critters, and the only way to feed them fast enough to prevent shoe-shining is to back everything up to disk, and then copy the jobs to tape directly from disk. So long as we have a week's worth of free-space, we're good. This is a sunk cost too, happily.

So. To-disk backups may be the greatest thing since the invention of the tape-changing robot, but our software isn't letting us take advantage of it.