City of Detroit

Case Study Overview

City of Detroit Reclaims Space, Consolidates Backup via Virtual Tape

The City of Detroit's Information Technology Services (ITS) department is accustomed to doing whatever it takes to meet the computing and technology needs of the various departments under its care.

Overseeing data center operations for everything from the City's finance and treasury divisions, to its police and fire units, Manager of Data Center Services Jim Davenport readily admits his team of administrators had to become quite well-versed in the often-heavy operational needs of the City's traditional tape backups.

Given the mounting legal requirements to retain data on backup tapes for multiple years, the City of Detroit's tape archive had since grown to over 20,000 physical tapes. Now spanning multiple formats, one challenge had become how best to bridge the gap from a recovery standpoint, especially when older tape technologies and systems gave way to newer ones. We'd developed quite a challenge having to maintain and access multiple generations of tape, said Davenport.

Ultimately, that represented just one of the issues currently impacting backup operations. Faced with an increasingly tight budget, recent IT staff reductions and a general consolidation mandate focused on reducing the overall footprint of servers and storage needed in the city's data center, Davenport and his team knew they had to do something about the growing footprint of automated tape libraries that had come to protect applications residing on a Unisys MCP platform, Microsoft Windows 2000 servers, Novell servers and an HP-UX system. He also knew he wanted to move toward less of a silo approach for tape backup that had grown around each operating system platform, and more toward a centralized, automated backup architecture.

After having used Dynamic Solutions International (DSI) for many years in the area of backuprelated management and tape operations, Davenport knew he could gain some much-needed advice for these issues by getting in touch with DSI.


Each department relying on the City's ITS team had great faith in the team's ability to restore data, in the event it was ever needed. While Davenport felt comfortable with the faithful 24x7 operations of the city's tape libraries and backup jobs, he was somewhat less sure of the reliability of each physical backup tape when it came to restores. He also knew there were better ways than the City was currently using to ensure the data was not just adequately protected, but able to be quickly restored.

After the finance department undertook a migration to a new payroll system, ITS backup issues suddenly became more pronounced with the new requirement to not only maintain all of the data stored in the old payroll system, as well as support the new system's emerging backup needs. That began to put a huge drain on the older tape resource we had here, he said, noting, We had to constantly buy new tape just to keep up with their demands.

For some time, DSI had been sharing the positive disk-based backup experiences of its customers after they added virtual tape library (VTL) technology into their existing backup operations. After hearing about some of the specific consolidation, management and exponential growth issues and goals currently facing the ITS team, DSI representatives sat down with Davenport and his team to iron out a viable move to VTL that would keep existing backup operations up and running without a hiccup, while giving the City of Detroit much more speed, choice and flexibility in their architecture.



DSI representatives proposed a multi-tiered VTL implementation that would ultimately place a DSI virtual tape library at two separate city sites. At the City's primary data center, a DSI9982 virtual tape library was planned to manage 8,000 virtual tape cartridges. With little to no change in existing backup jobs required, Davenport was happy to learn his existing backup software would naturally recognize the VTL appliance as just another physical tape library target. The key difference would now be in the extreme speed of backup and restores possible by the new disk-based backup architecture.

Using an underlying DSI storage array paired with a DSI LTO tape system, the VTL appliance could now perform centralized backups for all of the data center's operating system platforms, including easy mainframe-attachment to the Unisys MCP system that housed the growing payroll application.

Liking what he heard so far, Davenport was also pleased to learn that the proposed second VTL appliance could be easily set up at one of the city's other locations. Once there, backup data stored by the first VTL appliance could then be replicated off-site, via normal network transmission, to the second site's VTL appliance.

It wasn't long before Davenport began to see a new vision of automated, tapeless backup and recovery that could not only free up his small IT staff, but could also replace many of the cumbersome tape libraries now in place at the data center.

As his thoughts turned to the upcoming move to an even smaller data center, and the need to simultaneously develop a better off-site DR plan, Davenport knew DSI's VTL solution could be just the answer he needed. He then gave the green light for DSI to get started.


Davenport was not surprised to witness DSI perform a very smooth VTL implementation. Given his past dealings with DSI, he'd come to expect it. In fact, so much of the move to VTL worked as advertised that he couldn't report a single issue. That turned into a big relief since Davenport had plenty of other things on his plate in the data center.


To have backup operations streamlined, automated and working faster than ever while solving many challenges at once was suddenly something he no longer had to address.

Instead of having to constantly buy new tape, the VTL now lets us handle the added backup load we've been facing, he said. In terms of consolidation, he's also been able to replace the three tape silos on the data center floor with a significantly smaller footprint.

Davenport's experience with DSI throughout the move to VTL remains extremely positive. DSI's equipment is reliable and the support team is very good at providing just the support we needed. That proved true again for us with this project, he said.

Virtual Tape Case Studies

Tape Systems Case Studies

I've learned to trust DSI's opinions and expertise. They have the best technical guys I've ever come across. When they explained how a virtual tape library (VTL) could help our situation, I believed them. Since they installed the VTL system, it's worked flawlessly. I now look forward to discontinuing physical tape backup altogether at some point in the future.

Jim Davenport
Data Center Service Manager


Primary Site:

  • DSI9982 Virtual Tape Library
  • DSI984 32TB Storage Array
  • DSI TapeManager Software
  • DSI LibraryManager Software
  • DSI iSCSI Library Controller
  • DSI2100 LTO Tape System
  • Single-rack mount ALP320 SDLT Drive

Secondary Site:

  • DSI9982 Virtual Tape Library
  • DSI984 32TB Storage Array


Significant reduction in data center floor space; new levels of automation requiring much less IT oversight; faster, more reliable data restores; a better mechanism to bridge old and new tape technologies; and robust off-site DR for rapid recovery.

Case Studies

"They have the best technical guys I've ever come across. When they explained how a virtual tape library (VTL) could help our situation, I believed them. Since they installed the VTL system, it's worked flawlessly..."


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