Testing Backup tapes before use?

20 pts.
Tags:
Backup
Backup Recovery and Media Services
BRMS
iSeries backup
LPAR
Tape backup
My company operates on an LPAR on an iSeries. Connected to the iSeries is a tape silo which we utilize as part of our backup strategy. Our backup strategy involves taking a full system save each Saturday night, and then Mon-Fri nights, we take incremental backups of our critical libraries. During the week, we take a set of backups before and after our batch processing. Our prebatch backups won't fit onto a single tape, so there is some carryover onto a second tape. It should be noted that we are using IBM's BRMS functionality to do our backups. Over the recent months (6 months or so), we have been experiencing an increase in media errors with our backups. When this occurs, the bad tape is replaced, and we restart the backups. This results in a 90 minute delay in our batch processing, and also triggers calls to our oncall staff. The iSeries batch is delayed 90 minutes, and processes on other systems fail, as they are waiting for triggers/feeds from the iSeries. This occurs once ever week (approximately). I am aware of 3rd party products that are available (ie Robot/Save) that have options which would allow us to skip a bad tape, without sending a job into MSGW status, however, at this time, we are unable to utilize such software, due to the setup at our data center (basically, we're stuck with what the Data Center is using, and at this time, they are using BRMS). What we would like to do, is test the tapes, prior to putting them in the tape silo, to ensure that they are usable. Is there a way that this could be done?

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two ways that come to my mind are:
1. checking manually media before each backup or in a batch.
2. go for an SLA with the tape supplier that any backup going bad will call for a penalty on the vendor, or permissible limit is 1 per 1000 tapes and so on (any conditions that seem to be feasible, practical and realistic but useful for improving the situation), and once the SLA is in shape, you will see a drastic improvement in the supplies quality.

Additionally, certain libraries have media management functions integrated into them- I assume you’re using the 3494 library with 3590 tapes- you would be able to solve your problem with a (quite expensive) upgrade to the new TS3500 library. You might even be able to migrate your old tape drives in.

As it is, without changing hardware, your best bet would be to set BRMS up to use a idle drive to continually test media, and to ensure that you have a clean cleaning cartridge set to clean every drive periodically.

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  • Gilly400
    Hi, Have you tried initializing the tapes on another (compatible) drive? Regards, Martin Gilbert.
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  • CyberStorage
    Not all tapes are created equally. Make sure you are using quality tapes from a reputable vendor that are properly acclimated before using them. Also make sure that your drive has been properly cleaned.
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  • mcl
    Ditto on what CyberStorage says on Media Quality and cleaning your drives. You may be at the mercy of the data center on this, but if it is causing problems, I would be complaining long and loud... I'm a fan of BRMS - have been using it at various locations for at least 10 years - I think it is one of the better products out there - just has a bit of a learning curve to set up properly. BRMS tracks media useage as well as read and write errors. You can set "threshold" values for the class of media you use. (Go BRMMED, option #1). You can then run the Threshold Report (Go BRMMEDACT opt#6) to see what volumes should be taken out of rotation. You can also see the usage and errors using the Work with Media command (GO BRMMED opt#2 or WRKMEDBRM) and pressing F11 a couple of times on list screen. However, I don't think that BRMS will actually mark the volumes as unusuable. You have to run the reports and then eject the unusuable volumes. Here are a few ideas to look at.. You didn't say what error message you were getting, but if there is a response that will tell BRMS to try another volume you could set that up in the system reply list. Assuming you have enough expired volumes in the library it should work. If you have multiple drives in your tape silo you might be able to run parallel backups. BRMS will handle that and decide what to put where. That will not get around bad media, but it will considerable speed up your backup. lastly, if you have the DASD space, consider backing up to another ASP or even to save files. Then run your tape backup during the day. Regards Mike
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  • TomLiotta
    First, your backups are strikingly excessive. You should be investing in journalling in other recovery options instead of doing "before and after batch" backups. (I don't recall that degree of backups since some 30 years ago or so.) It's no wonder your tapes go bad. A full system save every week? What in the world for? Once every three to six months is more reasonable. Rotating library saves through the week makes some sense along with incrementals. Rotate perhaps like libraries A through G on Mondays; H through N on Tuesdays, etc. Split a couple drives off as a user ASP. Use them for your journal receivers and for SAVSECDTA/SAVCFG savefiles. If you have a decent RAID configuration, cut your backups even more. Tom
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  • Splat
    I agree with Tom that doing backups before and after your batch processing is a bit much. If it's required, though, you might want to look into backing up into save files rather than directly to tape. The process is loads faster and gives you a lot more flexibility in when you do actually write the tapes.
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  • Muzikevik
    Try cleaning the drives
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