Tape future looks bright for the HPE Golden Cartridge winner
In 2015, HPE ran a worldwide competition for HPE LTO Ultrium media called The Golden Cartridge. A number of specially designated 'Golden Cartridges' were created in our factory and these were then distributed at random into HPE’s worldwide LTO media supply.
No one knew where, or when, the Golden Cartridges might be found. As in the classic children's story, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (sadly not quite as sweet!), IT teams and their purchasing colleagues could only speculate what might be inside their next box of HPE LTO tapes and whether they might be fortunate enough to find one of these special prizes!
One in (several) million
Out of several million HPE cartridges shipped during the promotion, less than one hundred Golden Cartridges were revealed. They were discovered in locations all over the world, including Brazil, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada and Europe. But in the end, there could be only one winner! This very special Golden Cartridge was found by Brachot Hermant, a company based in Belgium, who received the Grand Prize of an HPE StoreEver MSL6480.
Now that some time has passed since the end of the Golden Cartridge competition, we thought it would be a good idea to go back and find out some more about Brachot Hermant and how they are using LTO Ultrium tape technology as a key part of their data protection strategy.
Ed Spooner, the Business Development Manager for EMEA, for HPE Storage Supplies visited the company, based near Ghent, Belgium, to have a discussion with Steven Roelants, IT Administrator and Nico Vanhaecke, IT Manager at Brachot Hermant.
About Brachot Hermant
Founded in 1901, Brachot Hermant is a natural stone company. The business buys and produces natural stone in different formats: from blocks to slabs, from paving to tiles. The business is global, employing around 400-500 people, with markets and customers worldwide. The company headquarters are in Belgium but there are also factories and distribution offices in India, South Africa and in Europe. The stone itself is sourced from one of eleven quarries all over the world.
Brachot Hermant in Europe
As with any successful business, the focus is to provide customers with the best possible solution for their needs. Although it's tempting to think of stone as being, well, ‘just stone’, in reality there is huge diversity in this natural material, which can be found in all colours, shapes and sizes. From icy Norwegian Labrador to scorching South African Red, from sweltering Brazilian Café Brown to mystical Indian Shivakasi: every natural stone is unique. Brachot Hermant also sells a range of composite stones that are created by merging different types together for use in specific applications, such as flooring, worktops, indoor and outdoor surfaces.
In terms of IT, the company is almost exclusively a HP/HPE shop, with all the major IT infrastructure for Europe centralised at the Belgian headquarters. All applications and users, in Ireland, Poland, Norway, France, Switzerland and Portugal connect to VMware environments running Citrix.
Keeping pace with the future in a global business
So what are the main IT and data protection challenges? According to Nico Vanhaecke:
“For IT, I think the biggest challenge today is to make sure that our IT is evolving to keep pace with the benefits of new software and new solutions. And yet at the same time, it’s very difficult to make sure we are up and running on the latest software. It’s going so fast and you have so many options and so many changes. That's for me the biggest issue: how to make it simplified for everyone and avoid getting tied down in complexity.”
And Steven Roelants adds:
“And the number of applications that people actually need to do their job, try to keep it to the minimum. For them to use and for IT to manage.”
And in a global business, such as Brachot's, there are many applications required to cope with the needs of a varied workforce and operations, in locations as diverse as Norway and South Africa.
Brachot Hermant and LTO tape
The Golden Cartridge was a tape and archiving promotion so let's take a closer look at how HPE StoreEver and LTO Ultrium fit into the company's data protection strategy. Steven Roelants takes up the story:
“Basically we are running LTO-4 for the moment, which is also why we opted for LTO-6 [note: as the MSL6480 prize for the Golden Cartridge] because that one was still backwards compatible with the LTO-4. So we can still restore from our current tape archives if it’s needed. Most of what happens in the company is done or is being registered in Microsoft Dynamics NAF, which has a mission critical database behind it. So, for the database we have regular backups so that if anything goes wrong, we can restore two points before trouble starts occurring and work from there. On the client side, there will always be Office files and unstructured data, like photos or multimedia that are taken of blocks or slabs or tiles. That content can be for catalogues and brochures, web publishing, or needed for a customer or tender to help with product selection. Now all that data needs to be stored somewhere as well”
And in terms of how long that data is retained for? Steven Roelants again:
“We have three backup schedules, so we run daily backups; then we have the monthly backups and each year we perform a yearly archival backup which is permanent on tape and those tapes are securely archived. In this way, we can go back 12 years - to 2005 - if necessary for an audit or general enquiry. We can also recover emails from a secure archive long after the original Exchange server retention policy has seen them purged from the live system.”
One of the advantages of using tape is its reduced cost of ownership and lower cost per GB. This is borne out by Nico Vanhaecke, who says that the rotation strategy used for tape archiving would be prohibitively expensive for a purely disk-based system.
One of the interesting developments in the past few years has been the emergence of CCTV as an information category that needs to be retained. CCTV footage is retained for an extended period of time. This material is also archived using LTO Ultrium tape as a separate activity from the mainstream, operational network data.
The company is now exploring how best to integrate its new MSL6480 into an enhanced, hyper-converged data centre, with the focus very firmly being on increasing performance, reducing cost and complexity and minimising risk. And Nico Vanhaecke still regards tape as having a key role to play:
“Some people say ‘Hey, let’s throw tape away’. But I see it in a different way. I think in the future the tape will be for long term storage. The first level of backup storage will be a disk and then from there it will eventually go to tape. It will be more efficient to be able to restore your virtual server from scratch, from a disk copy, than starting from scratch with tape. But tape will be better for keeping data safe for years.”
Brachot Hermant are a good example of a business that is moving to combine the performance benefits of disk with the economics and long term retention benefits of tape. This comprehensive, tiered, and intelligent workflow spans software, disk, and tape and will help the business time, money, and reduce risk.