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Users Push for CDP Shapeshift

Posted by inet - 2006-04-09

Storage users, always a vocal lot, are really having their say with CDP, re-shaping this emerging technology into something that looks far different -- and is more useful -- than what it was a year ago.

Customers want continuous data protection (CDP) to do more than handle post-failure rollback to a specific point in time. They want direct CDP links to SANs instead of host computers, multisite support, and more granular recovery for specific applications. These changes are forcing CDP vendors to work more closely with partners to service the call -- or risk losing ground.

One Revivio customer, for instance, says he's eager to sample the vendor's Application Integration Module (AIM), which Revivio says rolls back to specific transactions or points in time after an outage. While Revivio claims to have offered this capability for awhile, Hal Weiss, systems engineer at Baptist Memorial Healthcare, plans to get his first look next month.
"Now, I can recover to a consistent state but not a specific record transaction in a database," Weiss says.

There are more challenges for Revivio. Weiss is already scoping other CDP possibilities. His company is looking into products from Kashya that link to SANs for CDP and data replication, instead of relying on servers. "Nothing would be modified or changed on the host," Weiss says.

Kashya VP of marketing Rick Walsworth says they've been shipping this alternate SAN port-mirroring capability since September 2005 through a deal with Cisco, and customers are glomming on. The Cisco Storage Services Module for the MDS9000 communicates directly with Kashya KBX5000 appliance to forge the link using Cisco's SANTap protocol.

Walsworth says Kashya plans a similar arrangement for Brocade switches but must wait until Brocade qualifies that solution, which he hopes will be by "midyear."

One Kashya customer says the bottleneck relief from the SANTap link has resulted in time and resource savings. "Kashya still does have their own driver to the host, but that's a link that can get bottlenecked," says Richard Ferrara, VP of technology/operations at Woodforest National Bank in Houston.

Another supplier, FalconStor, also boasts the ability to replicate and perform CDP operations using SAN connectivity, in addition to host-based backup for smaller customers. VP of marketing Don Mead says several customers are already using the new capabilities, built in at no extra cost to the latest revision of the vendor's replication product.

Users want more from Kashya, too. Weiss says he doesn't see the level of application integration that Revivio offers. Ferrara, while not requiring better app integration, says his ultimate goal is to virtualize recovery throughout his multisite network. He's not sure Kashya could take him there without sizeable enhancements.

CDP suppliers are looking at upping the ante in other ways as well. This week Mendocino Software unveiled a technology integration deal with Sybase that could produce faster and more efficient database management tools for enterprises. Though Mendocino presently integrates with a range of third-party software, the vendor says it's getting special privileges from Sybase -- capabilities above and beyond what the Sybase API enables. That should lead to new uses for CDP, according to Mendocino VP of marketing Eric Burgener.

Like Revivio, Mendocino operates at the block level instead of the file level, making it easier to track transaction points in the Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) and Sybase IQ, a data warehousing product. So the linkage with Sybase could result in products that offer faster database restorable, offload-processing of data, and the ability to refresh data more often without shutting down the database, Burgener says.

Considering Mendocino's still-nascent OEM deals with EMC and HP, the results could have an impact on database storage as well -- not to mention Mendocino's uncertain customer count.

On the downside, customers will have to wait until 2007 for the blended Sybase/Mendocino wares. Further, they won't be cheap, but will probably mimic current Mendocino pricing, which ranges from $80,000 to $90,000 for a typical full configuration with hardware and software.

Other CDP vendors are also focused on getting closer to enterprise users. InMage has pumped up its integrator relationships. TimeSpring is peddling its file-based CDP product as an adjunct to Avamar's Axion storage system. Topio recently introduced a "Disaster Recovery Solution in a Box," This is in line with a new, stripped-down CPS 1000 that couples Revivio's AIM with integral 1.8 Tbytes of storage at roughly one-fourth the cost of the vendor's $50,000 standard offering.

All this points to CDP's emerging existence as a technology for aiding and abetting a range of enterprise applications. What comes next? Expect more partnerships, and possibly consolidation, as CDP suppliers get swallowed by partners who need it most. A recent example was Atempo's purchase of Storactive, following an OEM deal. It's a trend that's likely to continue.

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