Feb 15 2016

Sacramento County Embraces Virtualized Servers, Strong Backup Infrastructure

Government IT managers look for products that can work well in virtual environments, but they also need backup for remaining physical servers.

Sacramento County in California runs a substantial IT operation. The IT staff supports 12,500 employees across 47 different departments under four agencies.

IT Manager Kurt Scheuerman says that over the past several years the county has essentially set up a private cloud between two fiber-connected data centers about 15 miles apart. Each data center also runs over a 10 Gigabit Ethernet backbone, which Scheuerman says makes backups and overall response times for users efficient and not something he really has to worry about.

But even with such strong infrastructure, Sacramento has spent time focusing on backup and recovery. Backup is increasingly important because, as organizations virtualize, they need backup tools that support their new environments and offer recovery capabilities that can anchor a disaster recovery plan. Organizations also look for deduplication features in backup tools that let them make more efficient use of disk space.

Roughly 80 percent of Sacramento County’s servers are virtualized over VMware and are backed up by NetApp Snapshot. The other 20 percent run over physical servers and are backed up by a CommVault system.

The virtualized servers run everything from Active Directory and Domain Name System (DNS) servers to the county’s criminal justice, welfare, medical and finance systems. Scheuerman says the county runs certain Structured Query Language (SQL) clusters and some of its older business systems on the physical servers.

“We’ve been with NetApp for about 10 years, and we refresh equipment on a five- to seven-year cycle,” he says. “We started with CommVault about three years ago.”

As for the cloud, Scheuerman says one department that currently backs up to tape may be ripe for a cloud solution in the future, but because the county built a private cloud, most of its needs can be handled within the two data centers.

“Of course, the public cloud is important to the future of computing,” he says. “But to paraphrase a friend’s quote, ‘We liked the cloud so much we built our own.’”

Scheuerman added that the fiber network and strong backbone across the two data centers give the county an inherent redundancy and failover capability that it wouldn’t otherwise have.

Jason Buffington, a principal analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group, says backup tools have mostly caught up with efforts by IT departments to virtualize their computing environments.

“We’re at a point where, for about 99 percent of the applications, there’s no longer any reason to write scripts,” Buffington says. “Without question, your backup solution today should be able to back up virtual machines, and come with embedded technology to back up VMs.”

Switching to Veeam for Backup

Brett Armfield, systems administrator in Corvallis, Ore., says more than 80 percent of the city’s servers are virtualized. That’s why they recently made the switch to Veeam backup.

“We’ve been trying to reduce our overall data center costs,” he says. “And with Veeam, we can also restore a large server in about 30 minutes.”

The city runs about 100 virtual machines to support 500 users. Corvallis virtualized applications for the fire, police, community development, and the building and permit departments, among many others. Veeam backs up about 25 terabytes of data nightly.

“We don’t have thousands of users like other cities, but we do have records that have retention policies that require backup, so that’s why we have so much data,” Armfield says, adding that the deduplication feature in Veeam helps the city better utilize its disk space.


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