One of the business challenges NetApp IT faces is archiving our legal, finance, and Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliant data. Backing up this data is important for legal, HR, and tax reasons. In some cases, the data must be secured for seven years for tax purposes. Like most companies, we have relied on tape backups to secure this data. Tapes are reliable, inexpensive, and present very little risk to our operations.


My IT storage team was intrigued by the use case that NetApp® AltaVault® and NetApp StorageGRID® offered. AltaVault cloud-integrated storage functions as a cloud gateway for backup and archive applications. StorageGRID provides an enterprise-grade object storage solution that supports widely adopted cloud protocols such as Amazon S3. The combination of AltaVault and StorageGRID would enable us to efficiently back-up application data while optimizing data protection and simplifying disaster recovery.


NetApp IT’s core tenet is to adopt technologies only when they satisfy a business use case. We evaluated these products and came to the conclusion that AltaVault and StorageGRID would be a powerful combination to modernize our backup procedures, reduce our costs, and, most importantly, improve the speed with which we can restore data for our customers.


Powerful Combination

Because they take advantage of the cost and scale benefits of cloud storage, AltaVault and StorageGRID are designed for an enterprise like NetApp with locations worldwide.


AltaVault delivered benefits such as 30:1 inline deduplication, compression and encryption technology, which makes archived data easier to transport and store, and faster to retrieve. It offers complete security for the data. We can categorize that data into buckets to make it more easily retrievable.  We are currently seeing 22 times deduplication savings from the data stored in AltaVault. As we push more data through AltaVault, we will benefit from even greater savings.


StorageGRID enables us to store and manage these massive datasets in a repository in the hybrid cloud. It enables us to abstract storage resources across multiple logical and/or physical data centers. We also create data policies to manage and protect our data according to our requirements.


Changing Our Archiving Architecture

Previously, critical data from all our locations was backed up in our Sunnyvale, California data center. We use backup software to manage the flow of the data from backup storage into a tape library in Sunnyvale. We defined when and how the archiving took place. The tapes were regularly transported to an off-site location for safekeeping. When data needed to be restored, we had to order the tapes from the vendor and physically transport them back to our site, which took at least 24 hours.


Current Architecture.jpg

Under the new target architecture, the process remains virtually the same. First, AltaVault provides a local optimized disk cache for the application to store backup data, resulting in faster restores for end users and saving bandwidth. One copy is stored in the StorageGRID nodes in Sunnyvale. Then the data is copied to StorageGRID nodes in our Raleigh, North Carolina data center, which serves as a repository for the offsite data copy. The complete cutover process took about five months.


The benefits have been numerous. We eliminated the cost of transportation, storage, tape library support, and physical tape procurement. Bringing backup in-house has enabled us to automate many of the day-to-day operational processes, resulting in a more agile service. We can also retrieve the archived data in one to six hours, depending on the data set size, or 3 times faster than before. This translates to a much faster turnaround for our customers. We anticipate improved backup speeds and significant cost savings in the future.


We also gained flexibility. We can more easily modify archive policies and add new archives on an ad-hoc basis. AltaVault allows us to scale our archive/SOX environment much faster than we could with a tape library. For example, we can spin up a virtual machine with AltaVault using existing disk shelves to gain capacity as opposed to purchasing more tape drives and a new frame for the tape library. Long term, the combined software will make it much easier to transition our backup procedures to new data centers as our data center footprint evolves.


Faster, More Reliable Data Archiving

One of the most satisfying parts of this project has been seeing firsthand the impact NetApp products can have on our operations. Not only will we improve efficiency and reduce costs, but we also will improve the data archiving services we provide to our business customers. As a team that constantly strives to use the best technologies to improve service delivery, that is the best result of all.


The NetApp-on-NetApp blog series features advice from subject matter experts from NetApp IT who share their real-world experiences using NetApp’s industry-leading storage solutions to support business goals. Want to learn more about the program? Visit

Pridhvi Appineni