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Extremely Remote Office Overcomes Backup Challenges

Remote and branch offices come in many forms, from regional offices to retail stores. One case of an extremely remote office is a ship at sea. An oil and gas company with a ship stationed in the Gulf of Mexico was struggling to provide backup and DR for on-ship infrastructure, which included two racks of equipment, servers and a storage array running 10 VMs and a satellite link. All of this equipment used a lot of power and space, which are both limited resources on a ship.

The ship spends a very infrequent and limited amount of time in port—a few hours every few weeks to offload product and load fresh food. While it is at sea the ship is resupplied by helicopter, an expensive process. Network connectivity at sea is provided by satellites, which means low bandwidth, high latency and high cost. The 2Mbit satellite link was insufficient for replicating the daily backups of the changed blocks to shore. The only way to do full backups was using tapes sent to the head office via helicopter. The on-ship infrastructure needed to be much more efficient with all of the resources it used. Network, space, power, and IT administration all needed to be more efficient. Backups needed to be reliable and automated.

The SimpliVity solution required only two physical servers on the ship, with no external storage array. This allowed the whole infrastructure to be condensed into a single rack. There were significant savings in power, cooling and space. In addition, the simplified global unified management of storage and compute reduced the effort required to manage the infrastructure.

An outstanding part of this story is the actual deployment. Another highlight is the amazing data efficiency in the SimpliVity platform. With the unreliability of the old platform and its end of support, deploying the SimpliVity platform became an urgent priority. Add in some challenging timing and the decision had to be made to send the OmniCube nodes to the ship while it was at sea. The OmniCube nodes were commissioned and initialized aboard the ship, allowing the IT team to start VM migrations. As VMs were migrated onto the SimpliVity platform, the replication back to an OmniCube system at head office began over the satellite link.

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It took a few days, but the initial synchronization of all 10 VMs completed while the ship was at sea. SimpliVity’s built-in, deduplicated replication allowed the whole environment to be backed up over the satellite link. Once the initial backup was complete, the ongoing daily backups finished rapidly, as only new unique blocks must be replicated with SimpliVity. The legacy system required every changed block to be replicated, even if the contents of the blocks were the same in multiple VMs.

While your remote and branch offices may not be at sea or connected by satellite, efficient replication saves money. You can use a slower, cheaper WAN link to achieve the same replication frequency. Or you can use the same WAN link and replicate more frequently for a reduced recovery point objective and less potential data loss. And what’s more, SimpliVity delivers a lot of additional value in simplifying the ROBO infrastructure and centralizing management.

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