Case Study

Sharp Corporation

Channel Gateway – Virtual Tape System Increases Efficiency of Mission-Critical Data Back-up

Company: Sharp Corporation
Business: Worldwide electronics equipment and parts manufacturer
Challenge: Increase efficiency of backup system for its mission-critical data
Technology: Luminex's Channel Gateway VTS technology within KEL’s EG-4500E
Results: “The results were amazing. The time spent on backing up data was reduced by 75%.”
-- Mr. Kohji Shoda, Operation Manager SE of the Third Information Service Division of SI Solutions Co., Ltd., an independent IT company established by IBM Japan Ltd., Sharp Corp., and Sharp System Products Co., Ltd.

Sharp Corporation has enhanced the efficiency and overall total cost of operation of its mission-critical systems data storage through the use of the Kanematsu Electronics, Ltd.’s virtual tape solution—KEL™ EG-4500E. The KEL EG-4500E is based on Luminex Software, Inc.’s Channel Gateway VTS technology, which KEL packages with its interface software.

Sharp, a leading worldwide electronics equipment and parts manufacturer established in 1921 in Japan , has been searching for ways to increase the efficiency of its backup processes for the company’s mission-critical systems data. Traditionally, data centers would address the issue by increasing the overall storage capacity allotted for back-up. However, that strategy becomes increasingly expensive as data volumes continue to grow exponentially. Thus, KEL looked at several alternative solutions and decided that the best solution for their needs was KEL’s virtual tape solution: KEL EG-4500E.

Kohji ShodaMr. Kohji Shoda, Operations Manager SE of the Third Information Service Division of SI Solutions Co., Ltd., which is responsible for all of the operation and management of Sharp’s mission-critical systems, concluded that the EG-4500E delivered significant improvements, including faster backup, with the total back-up time reduced by 75%. In addition, the physical space required was reduced to 1/30 of the original footage. Finally, Sharp experienced a smooth transition to the new system due to the ability to maintain the same host environment.

Challenge: Efficient Storage

In the past, Sharp used a mainframe-based large-scale tape library as a back-up storage solution for its mission-critical system, which covers such areas as human resources, accounting and finance. “Back when we had the large-scale tape library, the tape device covered the full length of the wall in the machine room, taking up most of the space. As the tape volume increases, you must also enhance the tape library. Volume of data began increasing at a faster pace, and it was becoming difficult to deal with the amount of time used for backup. Also, the strategy of investing in greater back-up capacity to support the increasing data was too inefficient. As timing had it, our lease period was coming to an end, and we were looking for a radical way to resolve this issue,” explains Mr. Shoda.

Sharp always had a keen interest in virtual technology, according to Mr. Shoda. Sharp was the first in Japan to adopt virtual systems by software, and one of its division headquarters has been using this technology. During the search for efficient storage systems, Mr. Shoda developed a strong interest in KEL’s virtual tape solution, the EG-4500E.


“I was introduced to the EG4500E by NS Solutions in 2001, “says Mr. Shoda. “The most impressive point about it is that this device is able to connect to the mainframe of IBM and Hitachi , which our company was using as our host systems. No other company had virtual tape products that could do this. Therefore, KEL’s system ended up being our only -- and best -- solution.”

The EG-4500E can be connected to the mainframes of IBM, Hitachi and Fujitsu without using any special software. Through emulation, data is recognized as 1/2 cartridge, allowing for a smooth transfer to the storage system.

For approximately six months, Sharp conducted comprehensive testing of the EG-4500E using every possible I/O pattern, and decided to install the new system, which successfully met Sharp’s expectations.


“The results were amazing. The time spent on backing up data was drastically reduced by 75% — from 120 minutes to 30 minutes. By replacing the old device, which stood wall-to-wall, with the EG-4500E, the physical space now used is only 70 sq. meters vs. 2300 sq. meters. This aspect of the new device is quite significant. In the resulting open space, we were able to set up various servers needed for our operational development. In addition, the amount of electricity used has been cut by half,” says Mr. Shoda.

In the past, differential backups were made daily, and a full backup would be done on the weekends. However, because it took five hours to back-up one block, sometimes a full backup could not be completed. Since the time has been reduced by 75%, Sharp can now carry out full backups without problems.

The 1/2 cartridge, which had been used previously for the magnetic tape library (MTL), could only hold up to 2 GB of data, even at the highest level of compression. However, the 9840 tape cartridges used in the EG-4500E can hold up to 40 GB, or 20 times the original storage. In addition, Mr. Shoda explains, “Only an average of 20% of the capacity of the 1/2 cartridge was actually being used. When this is compared with the virtual tape, which can effectively use its full capacity, it causes the difference in efficiency to be even more significant. As a result, the approximately 8000 rolls of tape from MTL could be stored in one EG-4500E library, which holds 700 rolls, delivering incredible space efficiency.”

Another significant benefit was the reduction of the total cost of operation (TCO). The tapes used with the MTL, including the unused portions, were disposed of after five years. The labor needed to transport the tapes in and out was unavoidable with the MTL solution.

“With the introduction of the EG-4500E, the work related to the tapes was eliminated. This is quite significant since those who were responsible for this work have been completely relieved of these job demands. This is even more beneficial than simply having a percentage of reduction,” Mr. Shoda emphasizes. He praises, “Also, the system is highly reliable and because KEL ensures availability with its remote management, we have experienced no shutdowns due to problems, and the system has been operating steadily.”

Due to such positive evaluations, a second system was added at the Tenri Advanced Development and Planning Center at the end of March 2003. “Having two systems means that we will be able to enjoy twice the benefits. We are looking to continue to effectively utilize the EG-4500E in various ways in the future,” summarizes Mr. Shoda.

About SI Solutions Co., Ltd.

SI Solutions

Sharp’s information systems department became an independent company, established in March 2001, with IBM Japan Ltd., Sharp Corp., and Sharp System Products Co., Ltd. as shareholders. SI is responsible for the operation and management of Sharp’s core systems, as well as system development. Also, by using the business knowledge which the Sharp Group has cultivated around the world in 19 countries, SI builds enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM) systems for many clients that are developing overseas businesses. SI is the number one company in western Japan for introducing SAP.