Telstra is a leading telecommunications provider in Australia that also offers cloud-based services to large enterprises. Seeking a more efficient backup system that would help protect petabytes of data, Telstra deployed a solution from Microsoft
partner EMC that is now being upgraded to Microsoft SQL Server 2012. Telstra can now move deduplication processing from the primary server to a secondary server, thus boosting performance and reducing bandwidth usage. The solution also provides an easier process
for supporting high availability.
Telstra prides itself on being Australia's leading telecommunications and information services company. The company provides more than 8.3 million Australian fixed lines and supports 12.2 million mobile devices, and its Big Pond division has become Australia’s
largest Internet service provider. The company, with 42,700 employees generated revenues of U.S.$26.8 billion in 2011.
||We’re already seeing interest in SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn, because customers want the ability to move deduplication processing onto a secondary server to boost performance and throughput.
Cloud Technical Specialist
Five years ago, Telstra began offering cloud-based services, with an emphasis on meeting the needs of large enterprise and government customers. Although the company supports a range of operating systems, its largest deployments use the Windows Server operating
system, and, for relational data, Microsoft SQL Server data management software.
Many of Telstra’s enterprise customers store more than a terabyte of relational data. When factoring in backup copies—and the need to retain old data for several years, depending on corporate and regulatory policy—total data stored for a single customer
can exceed one petabyte.
“One of the key parts of running a managed service hosting environment is data protection,” says Daniel Peluso, Cloud Technical Specialist at Telstra. Two areas of interest to Telstra have been reducing the time required to complete backups and finding easier
ways to deploy clustering for high availability. Peluso says, “We need to always ensure that we are protecting our customers’ data efficiently and backing it up as quickly as possible.”
Telstra has long depended on Microsoft partner EMC for storage, using the EMC VNX Series. More recently, it has relied on EMC for backups, using EMC Avamar backup and recovery software and systems with integrated client and global data deduplication. Avamar
data deduplication ensures that only new, unique data segments are transferred across the network and stored to disk. This minimizes network bandwidth use and disk storage.
In December 2011, Telstra began testing the prerelease version of EMC Avamar 6.1, which is delivered as a rack-mounted Avamar Data Store server, and includes Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise running on Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise. Telstra was quick
to see the value in the AlwaysOn feature of SQL Server 2012, which simplifies the deployment of clustered servers and database mirroring for high availability. With AlwaysOn, deduplication processing can be performed on a secondary server in an AlwaysOn availability
group, freeing the resources of the primary server for line-of-business transaction processing.
Telstra has nearly completed its testing of Avamar 6.1 and SQL Server 2012. “Testing has gone without a hitch,” Peluso says. “We are looking forward to rolling out the Avamar 6.1 and SQL Server 2012 solution.”
Telstra anticipates a number of benefits from SQL Server 2012 and Avamar 6.1, including improved performance, bandwidth savings, and easier support for high availability in its cloud services.
Improved Performance with AlwaysOn
Although EMC hasn’t quantified performance increase by using AlwaysOn in an Avamar 6.1 deployment, the company notes that the impact could be significant, depending on the primary-server workloads and the backup volumes being processed for deduplication.
“Performing deduplication and backup processing uses CPU, memory, and disk access,” says Michael Jones, Principal Product Manager at EMC. “Now customers can completely offload deduplication processing to a secondary server in an AlwaysOn availability group.
Coupled with the inherent efficiencies of EMC deduplication, it means that customers can schedule frequent backups without affecting production.”
Telstra believes that AlwaysOn will prove popular with its enterprise customers. “Many of our large customers are looking for high throughput, especially when dealing with financial transactions,” Peluso says. “We’re already seeing interest in SQL Server
2012 AlwaysOn, because customers want the ability to move deduplication processing onto a secondary server to boost performance and throughput.”
99 Percent Bandwidth Savings
The ability to move deduplication processing onto a secondary server in an AlwaysOn availability group is important to Telstra because Avamar deduplication has become so vital to its operations. Prior to moving to EMC solutions, Telstra had difficulty completing
backups within an acceptable timeframe—even with a dedicated network to support backup activity. Peluso notes, “Some of our customers have terabytes of data that must be retained for up to seven years.”
After deploying Avamar, Telstra saw significant bandwidth savings because deduplication slashed the amount of data being transferred to Avamar Data Store servers. With deduplication and multistreaming, backups now take minutes instead of hours. Telstra has
found that Avamar reduces bandwidth usage over its backup network by 99 percent with unstructured data and by up to 97 percent for structured data in specific scenarios.
“Prior to deploying Avamar with its deduplication, we were continually up against the limits when it came to backing up data for all of our customers,” Peluso says. “Before Avamar was deployed, full backups took 20 hours to complete. Now we run daily full
backups in just 38 minutes using Avamar. This gives us enormous scalability to meet future growth, and that scalability is boosted by our ability to move deduplication off of transaction servers using AlwaysOn.”
Easier High Availability
Telstra plans to take advantage of AlwaysOn to simplify the infrastructure it provides to support high availability in its cloud offerings. “AlwaysOn removes the previous challenges of dealing with shared disks and split-brain cluster scenarios,” Peluso
says. “The SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn feature, combined with Windows Server 2008 clustering, provides us with a much easier and more efficient process for providing high availability.”
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