With 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students and 1,000 faculty members, the University of New Hampshire (UNH)’s computer needs are many and diverse. Thanks to Quantum’s DLT 4000, UNH’s Computer Science Department can quickly retrieve information, some of which is completely original, with ease and simplicity. “Our goal is to be as unobtrusive as possible,” comments Andy Evans, computer specialist, and system manager. “We want to keep up-to-date so graduate students and professors can reach their goals and work unhampered on projects.” At any given time, the Computer Science Department provides support for the research efforts of approximately 200 people.
Dozens of different systems and applications are used in research in artificial intelligence, graphics, networks, and parallel computing. Set up with 24 computers utilizing “a variety of mediums and languages, just about everything that’s out there,” the Sun/Sparc hardware and Sun/Solaris operating system handle raw data regarding abstract theories, systems implementation, and other word processing and software functions. Communications are accomplished via an Ethernet fiberoptics network. Along with “absolute dependability from the Quantum DLT product, there’s a known workability between Sun and DLT,” adds Evans. “Things happen and students and professors can lose information, some of which can be their life’s work. We must be able to retrieve the data in its original form. You never know when you’re going to be asked to restore something. Not only are DLT tapes reliable, but they have a much longer shelf-life than non-DLT products.” In the past, the Computer Science Department had lost information due to the deterioration of tapes.
Prior to purchasing the Quantum DLT system, the Computer Science Department did backup via dual drives using 8mm DAT (Digital Audio Tapes), a situation Evans describes as “painful. There was more user interaction and less reliability as well as more [information] write problems. It would say something was there when it really wasn’t.” Capacity was another issue: “Along with having to split the work between two systems, we had to run it all night.”
The purchase of the Quantum DLT 4000 in 1997 was met with virtual and literal sighs of relief. “Basically, the device started working as soon as we took it out of the box,” Evans continues. “The hardware was easy to use and compatible with just about every kind of software.” With a minimum of direction, “anyone can switch the tapes and do restorations,” freeing up technicians for more complex tasks, such as troubleshooting the various networks. “One of the biggest problems with backup tapes is data recovery and DLT has made that simple.” Amanda software, developed by the University of Maryland, provides network backup archiving and storage management.
Evans was also impressed by the design of the DLT drive. “There’s no real friction between the head and the tape,” making for consistent recording of information and reduced wear on the drive and tape. The wider size of Quantum DLT tape also allows for additional capacity, greatly speeding up operations, meeting the 24-7 demands on the Computer Science Department’s system. The tapes are overwritten on a bi-weekly basis and are “reusable for long periods of time and can handle the heavy workload.” Still, another bonus was that, should an emergency arise, “other people at the University had DLT drives which we could borrow. There are a lot of tape drives out there,” but many are newcomers, without the established track record of Quantum. And the DLT was up to the challenges of handling a spectrum of operational and hardware platforms. “Other tape drives are much more limited.”
Although the 20 gigabyte DLT 4000 currently meets the needs of UNH’s Computer Science Department, Evans has plans for a stacker which will automatically feed and rotate twelve tapes, as well as the possible addition of another DLT drive/stacker combination. “The less humans interact with the tape, the greater the dependability and lack of errors,” he observes.
“I was looking for ease of use, speed, and reliability and the Quantum drive provided that, and more.”