Continuous data protection gets gussied up

The latest CDP tools offer advanced recovery and archiving, and more integration choices.

Continuous data protection tools have become all the rage. They're popular with IT executives developing New Data Center storage plans, because they deliver a time-sensitive approach to backing up and recovering data. But CDP vendors aren't resting on their laurels.

In recent months, many vendors have begun offering enhanced products that deliver event-driven backup and archiving. These let users recover data with a greater level of detail. Also in the works are CDP tools that support a wider variety of servers and databases.

Late last year, for example, Mendocino Software rolled out RecoveryOne, which annotates the CDP timeline with information about events to make the selection of an optimal recovery point easier. Other next-generation features include built-in interfaces to storage products for archiving, simultaneous support for multiple heterogeneous servers, the ability to present multiple historical views and improved scalability and performance, according to the company.

In March Mendocino teamed with Sybase to integrate RecoveryOne with the Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise and Sybase IQ databases. The goal is to create a comprehensive set of database management tools that cover single- and multisite environments. Benefits will include better database protection and recovery with less impact on production and more-flexible off-host processing; easier heterogeneous data migration for database server and storage upgrades and consolidation; and streamlined data retention efforts, the companies say.

The CDP portfolio of Revivio, a 2005 start-up to watch, has been evolving for several years. In April, for example, it unveiled the Continuous Protection System (CPS) 1000, its first product with embedded disks. The CPS 1000 joins the Revivio TimeFrame Data Protection System, which the company says brought time-addressable storage to the market, and the second-generation CPS 1200 appliance, Revivio's flagship product, which replicates disks or groups of disks with data from any point in time and provides restored volumes that offer instant read/write access.

Since its introduction almost three years ago, the CPS 1200 has supported instant recovery of individual objects such as files and e-mail, and has offered instant access to recovery points based on operational, environmental and application-specific events.

Prairie Packaging, manufacturer of foam and plastic disposable products, began using Revivio's CPS 1200 in December 2005 to continuously back up two servers running Windows Server 2000 and an Oracle back-end database. The company plans to expand the deployment to include its Oracle ERP system, which runs on Sun 880 servers, says Manny Singh, director of IT at the Bedford Park, Ill., company.

With the appliance, Prairie can bring up a backup system in less than five minutes, he says. Among its biggest benefits is the reduction of downtime. It costs the company thousands of dollars in lost labor and productivity for a server to be down for one hour, he says.

Another start-up, Mimosa Systems, focuses on providing CDP for Exchange servers. Its NearPoint tool captures e-mail throughout its life cycle, creation through destruction, in every mailbox including senders' and recipients'. It can track an e-mail's complete access and activity history, including all opens, edits, deletions and forwards, without affecting server performance.

Mimosa pitches this as a major improvement over other e-mail data collection approaches, including SMTP, the Microsoft Messaging API and journaling. These can affect performance and consume large amounts of storage and lack rich information indexing capabilities, the company says.

NearPoint, which is Mimosa's first CDP product, offers e-mail archiving, recovery and user self-service access to all historical e-mail. It uses commodity storage such as Serial Advanced Technology Attachment RAID and network-attached storage (NAS) appliances to provide CDP and access to archived data from multiple Exchange servers. Administrators can perform immediate restorations and configure policies using the standard Microsoft Management Console. Support is expected to be forthcoming for additional applications, such as inData' s eDiscovery, file systems and Microsoft SharePoint, the company says.

Old faces, new lines

Start-ups such as Mendocino, which in 2002 began offering its first-generation CDP software - RealTime, for IBM AIX platforms - aren't alone in this market any longer.

In October 2005, for example, storage-industry leader EMC unveiled its first CDP offering, RecoverPoint. The software is part of EMC' s larger Recovery Management Strategy for combining analytics and reporting, backup, CDP, management services and replication in an integrated solution.

RecoverPoint provides immediate data recovery to any previous point in time, capturing all changes as they occur and writing them in parallel to an allocated recovery storage space. The software offers application-aware data protection to key business applications on a variety of operating systems, and coordinated recovery of groups of related applications, enabling organizations to restart applications from the same point in time. RecoverPoint supports heterogeneous storage arrays, applications and operating systems.

Application availability software vendor XOsoft entered the CDP market with Data Rewinder, which it updated a year ago and renamed Enterprise Rewinder. The tool provides instantaneous recovery of corrupted Exchange, SQL and Oracle databases. It continuously captures and journals all input and output operations that result in a change to the data. From a centralized GUI, IT administrators can recall significant application-specific events such as input and output patterns, checkpoints and log file rotations.

IBM also plays in the CDP market. Its Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files provides real-time data protection for file servers and PCs. Users can specify as many as three target backup and replication areas for high-priority files: a local disk, a file server or NAS appliance, and a Tivoli Storage Manager server. Files' changes are captured when they occur to help protect against corruption, file loss, system loss or accidental deletion. The product provides off-site copies of backup data for vaulting, auditable disaster recovery, and tape and media management.

And in March, data management vendor Atempo entered the CDP market through the acquisition of Storactive. It offers two CDP tools, LiveServ and LiveBackup.

With LiveServ, Microsoft Exchange administrators recover messages, mailboxes or databases from any previous point in time. The latest release of LiveServ includes an e-mail search tool that lets administrators easily retrieve older Exchange data from LiveServ archives. As LiveServ evolves, its role is moving beyond simple backup and recovery to long-term data retention and archiving, Atempo says. A new version will be available later this year, the company says.

Seven advanced CDP tools The latest crop of continuous data protection tools offer sophisticated capabilities such as self-serve file recovery and more detailed recovery points.
Company Product Highlight Cost
Atempo (formerly Storactive) LiveBackup Provides self-serve file recovery for users. $25 to $75 per seat, depending on volume
EMC RecoverPoint Offers application-aware data protection to key business applications on a variety of operating systems. Starts at $75,000
IBM Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files Lets users specify as many as three target backup and replication areas for high-priority files, including a local disk, a file server or network-attached storage appliance, and a Tivoli Storage Manager server. $35 per laptop or desktop; $995 per server processor
Mendocino Software RecoveryOne Annotates the CDP timeline with information about events to make optimal recovery-point selection easier. $50,000
Mimosa Systems NearPoint Offers archival recovery and user self-service access to all historical e-mail. Starts at $10,000
Revivio CPS 1200 Instantly lets users restore data exactly as it existed at any point or event in time, for applications such as ERP, databases and e-mail. Starts at $50,000
XOsoft Enterprise Rewinder Continuously captures input and output operations that result in a change to the data, and journals them for data-recovery purposes. $25,000

Atempo' s other CDP tool, LiveBackup, protects Windows desktops and laptops automatically without disrupting work and interfering with productivity. As LiveBackup has evolved, its backup operations have become increasingly transparent to users, the company says. The LiveBackup user experience now compares to those with modern anti-virus applications: Users are aware of LiveBackup only during recovery operations.

The latest LiveBackup features and capabilities include real-time data protection that monitors files for changes and backs up data as it is saved; automatic backup of e-mail in-boxes; and self-serve file recovery, which lets users recover their own files.

Mike Karp, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, says he considers self-serve file recovery one of the most valuable features of the newer CDP tools. "If CDP can effect recovery without getting the help desk involved, then the whole IT process gains efficiency," says Karp, who also writes Network World' s "Storage in the Enterprise" newsletter.

CDP in action

At Vitale, Caturano & Co., a Boston accounting and business advisory firm, LiveBackup helps protect data stored on the firm's many traveling users' laptops, says Jon Holmes, manager of technology.

The software backs up data every time a user makes a change, ensuring that virtually no data is lost in the event of a problem, Holmes says. Transparently to the user, LiveBackup caches file changes locally, then performs a remote backup automatically once the user connects to the network.

Vitale, Caturano put the software to the test in November 2005, when a security patch distributed through an automated patch- management system inadvertently deleted all the shortcuts users had programmed. Within two hours, IT had restored all the shortcuts using LiveBackup.

Although the users could have relied on LiveBackup' s self-serve recovery feature to get their shortcuts back, IT opted to undertake the recovery task for them, Holmes says. The recovery "required some specific folders that are part of the operating system and can be tough to find," he explains.

Without the CDP tool, the recovery could have taken two or three weeks of work, Holmes says. "With a staff of five people, we can't lose a person for two weeks."

The CDP tool also offers peace of mind, he says: "My staff sleeps at night because we know we have our information backed up all the time."

Violino is a freelance technology writer. He can be reached at bviolino@optonline.net.

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