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How Red Hawk Eliminated Tape for Good

Jake Warren, Systems Administrator at Red Hawk Casino, shares how he finally eliminated tape and started using public cloud (Amazon Web Services) as a cost-effective long-term data retention resource with Rubrik.

What led you to Red Hawk?

I’ve been building computers and networks since I was in high school so working in IT was a natural career choice. I honed my IT chops working as a desktop technician for a medical company during my college years and then worked my way up over the next 20 years from being a network admin to designing and implementing new technologies at casinos. When Red Hawk opened its doors in 2008, I left home (Michigan) to help build the IT environment and team from scratch at the Northern California-based casino.

What makes running IT at a casino unique?

Like most places today, IT is chartered with keeping the business running 24/7. Within a casino, that means ensuring guests can play slots, poker, whatever they want at any time they want. A casino environment is unique since there is a significantly larger number and greater variety of systems that each admin needs to manage. At Red Hawk, we have two sys admins managing close to 100 applications and 175 servers that power everything from back office operations (marketing, finance, HR) to customer services (valet, garment) to facility management (lighting, heating/cooling) to gaming (2,000+ slot machines). Drinking coffee only gets you so far, which means our team of sys admins are always on the lookout for automation to improve our productivity and response times.

What wasn’t working with your backup infrastructure?

At Red Hawk, we selected the market leading backup software vendor and paired it with another leading backup storage vendor. For long-term data retention, we used tape. The biggest issue was the complexity involved in day-to-day tape management. Every day, I spend an hour to monitor our backup infrastructure and backup job schedules. Every other week, I essentially spend a full day on archiving data to tape. I’ve got to offload data to tape, reshuffle the tapes, refresh the tapes, move them offsite, all the while restarting backup jobs that have stopped.

Doing a file restore from tape sometimes takes weeks. If the local index doesn’t have the data, I’ve got to restore the index from tape, locate where the data actually is on the tape, and then recall the tapes. This is when we take a financial hit since you’re either waiting for the truck to pull up curbside to do the monthly tape sweep or paying to get the truck to pull up sooner. Searching for the right set of data drags on for weeks since you’re balancing tape pulling with index restoration.

Walk me through your Rubrik installation.

Rubrik is so simple. You rack and stack, plug it in, let the networks auto-discover, and Rubrik is running and protecting your environment in half an hour. It used to take us at least one week to set up just the backup software.

How are you using Rubrik and what results have you seen?

We’re using Rubrik to protect our 100% virtualized environment. The dashboard makes management straightforward and easy. I can easily understand the status of the system, what jobs are running, what problems I should address. I no longer need to drill down into dozens of settings, storage policies, and disk libraries.

With Rubrik, I can finally eliminate tape and shift to using Amazon Web Services for our long-term data retention. Couple this with Rubrik’s global real-time search and we’ve turned public cloud into an easy-to-use, cost-effective alternative. I can instantly locate specific data sets by searching an index that catalogues data on-site and off-site, eliminating the pain and time spent on taping out and waiting for recalled tapes.

Our RTOs have improved drastically. If I need to restore a 100GB database server, it used to take a few hours. Now, I can restore the server in less than 10 minutes and live migrate back to my production environment.

We’ve also solved the application stun issue with our 4TB SQL databases. These databases have a high change rate so snapshot windows tend to drag on and resulted in non-crash-consistent-snapshots. Rubrik’s quick ingest via flash eliminates the effect of VMware application stunning, allowing us to do VM-level snaps (vs. using the traditional backup software approach) and snap at a higher frequency.

Tell me about your savings.

We’ve unlocked massive savings in not only admin time but also impact to the business by eliminating tape management complexity. RTO has gone from weeks down to minutes.

We have reduced our infrastructure acquisition spend by 50%. The annual fees paid in maintenance and support for software, hardware, and tape have been reduced by 60% with a much simpler data center footprint (no more tape!).

What’s the biggest misperception of your job?

People simply don’t understand the complexity and amount of things we have to juggle. Nobody cares about backup until recovery is needed. Rubrik helps us do our job—keep the business running—while getting rid of the pain and complexity.

Download the case study: Red Hawk Casino Eliminates Tape Complexity with Rubrik.



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