Utility Powers Up Backup - InformationWeek

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5/14/2004
11:42 AM
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Utility Powers Up Backup

Energy producer Calpine moves to real-time online backup and storage system designed to cut costs and improve efficiency

In the past, only a few businesses needed multiple levels of technology for backup and recovery. Companies that faced the possibility of losing millions of dollars each minute that their systems were down were among the few that invested in online backup and recovery along with low-cost archiving.

That's beginning to change. Energy producer Calpine Corp., in San Jose, Calif., understands the importance of backup and recovery given the state's rolling brownouts. And the company worries about data recovery in other areas because it operates facilities in 21 states as well as in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Calpine is working to deploy more timely backup and recovery processes for all locations by moving from a mostly tape-drive infrastructure to one that features real-time online backup and remote storage. The system is designed to cut costs and improve efficiency at the company, which reported $8.9 billion in revenue last year, says Brett Kernen, IS support services director. "Best of all, it brings us increased reliability and recoverability," he says.

Marc Eisenstein(left) and Brett Kernen -- Photo by Stone

One person is now doing the backup work that used to take 60, says Calpine's Eisenstein (left), with Kernen.

Photo by Stone
The company also has saved $319,000 in labor costs since last summer, and one person is doing the backup and recovery work of 60, says Marc Eisenstein, distributed systems manager at Calpine.

The service uses a software agent on systems to automatically transmit new information to an off-site location for backup and storage. In the next year, Calpine plans to apply that approach to the personal productivity side of operations. While the data at the power plants are backed up nightly, personal-productivity apps will be backed up continuously.

Company growth and cost savings drive Calpine's online recovery requirements. Two years ago, the company increased power-generation capacity by 70%. It has 10 projects under way that are expected to boost production capacity by 29,000 megawatts by 2006.

Enhanced business continuity, Eisenstein says, is proving to be an outstanding side benefit. In the past, it would take two days to recover about 5 Gbytes of backed-up data after a problem or outage. Today, tests show it can be done in about four hours. "It's increasing our abilities in case of a disaster," he says.

Calpine uses the services of Iron Mountain Inc., which provides remote-data protection to about 17,000 businesses in the United States. Iron Mountain works with software vendor LiveVault Corp. to deliver its Electronic Vaulting service, which includes online backup and storage in secure off-site facilities.

In addition to moving aggressively into online recovery, Iron Mountain still provides tape and even paper storage for companies that need them. It also offers automated backup and storage of E-mail to help businesses meet compliance rules governing the retention of documents.

Iron Mountain's broad offering sets it apart from competitions, says Adam Couture, an analyst at Gartner. "A customer backing up to tape from a data center could use Iron Mountain's physical service but also could deploy online backup for its remote servers," he says.

Pricing depends on the amount of data that needs to be backed up, the number of locations, and how long the information needs to be stored. Iron Mountain says a basic package of services for small to midsize businesses starts at $199 per month.

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