Case in Point: Backing Up in a Tight Window

Round-the-clock service availability makes backup critical. Learn how an electronic trading company gets it done.

As a provider of electronic trading infrastructure technologies and services for the institutional trading community, Stamford, Conn.-based NYFix Inc. is a near round-the-clock operation—with a global presence to boot.

NYFix and its various subsidiaries provide electronic trading systems and industry-wide routing connectivity, along with real-time order management trader workstations and exchange automation solutions. The company also maintains an overseas subsidiary—NYFix Overseas Inc.—that specializes in electronic trading systems for the derivatives market.

NYFix recently implemented version 10.5 of BrightStor Enterprise Backup from Computer Associates Int’l Inc. (CA), an enterprise backup solution for heterogeneous environments.

Greg Petras, an NYFix systems analyst, says BrightStor has helped his company to save money by increasing the availability of its servers. CA’s revamped backup product also includes other features—including integrated reporting engine and a portal component—Petras says have helped to make his relationship with company management a lot more comfortable.

But don’t just take his word for it: NYFix deployed BrightStor 10.5 on many of its production systems before CA began shipping the final code.

“We saw a definite improvement [in terms of performance] over BrightStor 10.0, and the new version was also much faster than [CA’s] ARCServe [backup], which we also had. It was very stable, it offered important features that we had actually requested, so we deployed it on some of our systems,” Petras explains.

Backup performance is a key issue for NYFix, which offers several client services that are available to its customers 24 hours a day, five days a week. The company also supports any of several internal services—such as its e-mail servers—that are expected to be available on a 24x7 basis. Those kinds of availability requirements don’t leave much room for backup.

To make matters worse, NYFix has quite a bit of data to back up, even on an incremental basis. With a mixture of Solaris, Linux, and Windows systems—along with a dedicated network attached storage (NAS) backbone—NYFix’s internal IT staff manages backup jobs for dozens of servers and NAS storage devices. Backing up that much data in a limited time period is a tough task, and it's probably going to get tougher: Like other companies, NYFix’ mission-critical data continues to accumulate at an exponential rate.

As a result, says Petras, his company developed a scalable backup architecture from the ground-up. The first step, he explains, was to purchase new tape libraries from Overland Storage Inc.

The next, he concedes, didn’t become clear until after he got his hands on a beta version of BrightStor 10.5. “There was a new feature in the BrightStor agents that allowed you to specify which interface you wanted the agents to run on, so it’ll just bind to a specific interface, so we lit up a second interface on these boxes,” he explains. The upshot, Petras says, is that this feature, along with other under-the-hood improvements that CA made to the product, allowed NYFix to “basically rearchitect our backup for the fastest backup performance.”

Petras exploited BrightStor 10.5’s support for multiple interfaces to create a dedicated network backbone for enterprise backup. Once he did so, he determined that CA’s revamped BrightStor product boasted significantly improved backup performance—even after taking the contribution of the new Overland libraries into account. “We purchased [the Overland libraries] when we had [BrightStor] 10.0, did a little bit of benchmarking with 10.0, noticed some improvements and speed from that, and when we did [BrightStor]10.5, did some more benchmarking and noticed that it was about 5 to 10 percent faster than BrightStor 10.0 and probably 20 percent faster than ARCServe,” he notes.

As a result, NYFix has substantially trimmed its backup window. “With the combination of BrightStor 10.5 and the new library, we’ve probably dropped down [to] under an hour,” Petras indicates.

BrightStor 10.5 isn’t just a one-trick pony, however. It includes a limited version of CA’s BrightStor Portal, which makes it possible for NYFix’ IT staff to perform backup operations from within the context of a portal. BrightStor Portal also doubles as a centralized reporting resource, Petras says, which allows him to easily disseminate backup reports to managers or other concerned executives.

“We’ve been able to spit out some really nice reports from the portal, which is something management was very interested in seeing,” he confirms, noting that CA charged for BrightStor Portal with previous versions of its backup product. “The reports are not extremely detailed—just, ‘this backup operation is complete, this is how much data being written, this is what was backed-up’—but it gives us enough detail so that one of my managers can go in there and say with certainty that something has been backed up. And that makes my job easier.”

As a result of new integration between BrightStor 10.5 and CA’s eTrust security products, storage administrators can exploit a combination of templates and wizard-driven interfaces to define rules for data retention that are automatically implemented in BrightStor Backup when an engine runs those rules against enterprise data.

Not surprisingly, Petras says NYFix—a provider of solutions to the financial trading community—is currently evaluating possible solutions for e-mail retention. “We don’t use any of those [eTrust integration] features currently, but we do have to abide by quite a few SEC regulations, so we are going to be looking at e-mail retention. We just may give it a second look,” he concludes.

Even though Petras hasn’t done an ROI study of NYFix’ new backup architecture, he believes that the ROI is there. “We’ve got a few services now that are 24x5 availability, so having a smaller backup window increases the availability of those servers,” he says.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.