Maintaining Historical Data ForeverWhiting Petroleum, based in Denver, Colorado, owns and operates oil and gas properties in the Permian Basin, Rocky Mountain, Mid-Continent, Gulf Coast, and Michigan regions of the United States.
With an ever-increasing volume of historical geospatial data stored on old tapes, Whiting needed to transition their legacy backup systems to newer technology. Engineers and geologists needed faster, more reliable access to data, and the company needed to ensure that its intellectual property would be better protected against the ravages of time.
Old Data, Old TechnologyWhiting’s business revolves around analyzing very old, expensively obtained terrestrial and geographic datasets. The company was storing historical data on outdated tape backup systems that were labor-intensive and unreliable. Storing critical intellectual property on tapes was increasingly risky and accessing the data was cumbersome and time-consuming. “We wanted to pull our data back off tape before the technology got too far ahead of those old tape formats,” says Eric Saabye, infrastructure manager at Whiting Petroleum.
In late 2007, Whiting adopted a Symantec solution that combined software and hardware to provide easier access to historical data and a data warehouse environment for storing it. The solution included a NetApp FAS3070 storage system, an HP StorageWorks LTO-4 tape library, and Symantec Backup Exec for Windows Servers with the Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP) option to enable the transfer of backup data. The company uses Symantec Backup Exec to run individual backup jobs, perform disk-to-disk backups of enterprise data to new Data Domain storage appliances, and facilitate the NDMP backup of geospatial data from the NetApp filer to the HP tape library.
“Previously, half of the data we didn’t even keep online,” says Saabye. “We needed a way to make our entire data warehouse available on the network without having to pull back data from old tape sets. Now, our geospatial data lives on the NetApp filer instead of deteriorating on tape.”
Customer Service to the RescueInitially the hardware and software combination didn’t work because it wasn’t yet certified by Symantec. But the Symantec product management team stepped in and provided a pre-release version of Backup Exec, and then assisted Whiting with testing and verification. “By an act of good will, Symantec earned some free beta testing in the real world, and we got the immediate compatibility that we needed,” says Saabye. Instead of having to scrap the NDMP option or Backup Exec to make the entire solution work, Symantec was able to solve the problem without any major delays.
Increased Recovery Success, Reduced TCO, and Improved ScalabilityWhiting has already begun loading historical geospatial data into the NetApp filer and replicating enterprise data between the two new Data Domain appliances. Their backup success rate is now nearly 97 percent, and errors are rare and inconsequential. Their recovery success rate is 100 percent, which helps the company meet Sarbanes-Oxley compliance requirements. “The last recovery I had to do was a two-year-old recovery from a very old tape,” Saabye says. “I had no problem.”
Except for performing disk-to-tape backups of its geospatial data, Whiting has virtually eliminated tape from its backup infrastructure. The interaction between Backup Exec and the Data Domain appliances has reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) by at least 50 percent, according to Saabye. The savings in IT labor hours reduces TCO even further, and as time goes by the company will save even more by reduced purchases of tape media. They will continue to do a monthly backup on tape, but only for compliance purposes.
In addition to the other benefits of Whiting’s new backup solution, Backup Exec provides the scalability to allow the company to protect growing data stores into the future without having to add to its backup infrastructure. “Symantec Backup Exec with the NDMP Option will allow us to expand our data without running into backup window barriers,” says Saabye. “It provides the enterprise-level feature sets that we have grown to need. The solution will grow with our hardware for many years to come without any additional cost.”
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