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Basics – Standalone drive auto media management

Posted by Preston on 2009-09-23

I don’t have many customers with standalone tape drives. Usually when they do, it’s due to one of two reasons:

  • Purchased to support recovery from previous-format media during a format change.
  • Used in remote or satellite offices for local backups.

In the first instance, a company may say, replace SDLT with LTO, but decide not to stage their long-term backups from SDLT to the replacement media. Instead, they may just say, purchase a standalone SDLT drive so that future recovery requests can be met (albeit more slowly) through protein based autoloading.

In the second instance, a company may either run multiple NetWorker servers, or a WAN based datazone with storage nodes in satellite offices. In smaller offices, an autochanger may be either undesirable or represent too high a cost, and therefore one or more standalone tape drives may be deployed.

One of the questions that does inevitably come up whenever I do encounter people with standalone drives is “how can I make NetWorker just automatically load and use the tape that’s put in by the <janitor|secretary>?”

There are limits to what you can achieve when your tape operators have either (a) no technical skill or (b) no access to the hosts they are replacing media for, but there’s one thing that you can enable which will make your life slightly easier in these situations ā€“ standalone device auto media management.

When we normally think of auto media management, we think of tape libraries. In tape libraries, auto media management refers to one thing alone ā€“ having NetWorker automatically label previously unlabeled media when it gets to a point that no labeled media is available.

However, when auto media management is enabled for standalone tape drives, it fulfills two very useful functions. These are:

  • Recyclable volumes loaded into the drive are automatically recycled.
  • Unlabeled volumes loaded into the drive are automatically labeled. (From memory, this is to the Default pool, but in small satellite offices, that often ends up being used.)

These are done whenever the device is idle – i.e,. when it’s not being used, NetWorker monitors the device for the above two situations and acts accordingly.

While this doesn’t solve all problems with tape management at satellite offices using standalone drives, it does at least help.


2 Responses to “Basics – Standalone drive auto media management”

  1. Sean said

    Funny, given this exact scenario and with auto media management enabled, I still have a backup continually hanging until someone comes in to mount the tape manually. I eventually wrote this script to fix the behavior:

    if /usr/sbin/nsrmm -C -f $DRIVE | grep “^(nothing)”
    /usr/sbin/nsrmm -m -f $DRIVE

    This checks to make sure the drive is currently “empty” from NetWorker’s perspective. If it is empty, then it attempts to mount the tape. I’ve got it set in cron to check every 10 minutes or so, just in case my “tape operator” puts the tape in just before we need it for the backup.

    I’m glad “Auto Media Management” works for somebody, though.

    • Preston said

      Sean – it looks like you’re hitting the area that AMM on standalone drives doesn’t appear to cover – automatically mounting appendable tapes that have been put in the drives. Is that correct? Based on my understanding of the process, that’s not one of the options provided by AMM for standalone drives. Instead it just focuses on recycling eligible volumes and labelling fresh media. Certainly I’d agree though that not mounting appendable tapes is a disappointing oversight.

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