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Tintri replication speeds agriculture firm's backup, restore

Tintri hybrid flash enables Life-Science Innovations to complete replication every night for all of its servers. The system can provide a server restoration in seconds.

Life-Science Innovations found itself in an unwanted spot -- behind in its backups. Actually, its system was constantly backing up.

"There was zero reliability on backups whatsoever," said Tim Starkenburg, systems administrator of Life-Science Innovations (LSI), the administrative umbrella for a family of agriculture, engineering and biosciences companies.

A switch in storage arrays and Tintri replication helped solve that problem.

'An incredible option'

LSI moved from NetApp to Tintri VMstore hybrid flash systems, designed for virtual machine storage, in 2014. On the NetApp system, the deduplication and backup would run all the time. The deduplication placed such a load on LSI's production servers that it caused a slowdown, and the company had to turn off the dedupe just to use those servers, Starkenburg said.

But, he said, Tintri replication and disaster recovery features came to the rescue.

LSI, based in Willmar, Minn., runs Microsoft Hyper-V and uses Tintri replication every night for all of its 165 servers, which equates to about 50 TB. Starkenburg said the company feels its replication to a secondary site about an hour away in Marshall, Minn., is sufficient for DR purposes.

To be able to do a full server restore in a matter of seconds is an incredible option.
Tim Starkenburgsystems administrator, Life-Science Innovations

LSI keeps 14 days of snapshots on primary storage and two remote snapshots. If it needs a restoration from a few days ago, for example, it can mount a snapshot in Tintri.

"To be able to do a full server restore in a matter of seconds is an incredible option," Starkenburg said.

For data that is six months old, LSI writes to tape for long-term storage.

Why Tintri replication and storage

LSI is the parent of 13 companies focused on providing animal protein, and serves as the hub for their IT and HR. The affiliate family employs about 1,500 people in Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and Virginia.

The firm chose Tintri replication, DR and storage after looking at a $200,000 bill to upgrade its NetApp system. The $40,000 cost of LSI's first Tintri system marked a big cost savings, Starkenburg said. 

Seeing good results, LSI bought three more Tintri systems a few months later. The organization put three systems at its main data center for production workloads and an additional hybrid system at the remote site for disaster recovery.

LSI also liked that Tintri is a newer company. That plus comes with drawbacks, though, as the vendor has seen its share of difficulties in the past year. Tintri went public in June 2017 and its stock price opened lower than expected, and has trended downward. The vendor said it cut 20% of its workforce last quarter. CEO Ken Klein said he plans to step down from the job, with Thomas Barton set to take over in April, but Tintri beat quarterly revenue and earnings estimates for its last quarter.

For LSI, the Tintri replication and storage transition has freed up valuable IT time. Starkenburg said he's down to just a couple of hours per week working on storage management and can focus on other important projects.

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