Remembering every instant in time

Continuous data protection takes apps back to any point in time for unbeatable recovery.

Hal Weiss, senior systems engineer for Baptist Memorial Health Care, needed to save time and get at data faster. Using traditional back-up and recovery software, backing up two Windows servers supporting a business-critical application and image files was taking as many as 11 days.

That meant the Memphis, Tenn., healthcare system never really had a handy data source to restore from, Weiss says. Whenever Baptist needed to use the back-up resource, it had to run massive log file changes and do multiple restores, he explains.

After evaluating a variety of software, Weiss found just what he needed - a new form of backup and recovery called continuous data protection (CDP). Available from start-ups such as Mendocino Software, Revivio and Storactive, CDP products offer a time-sensitive approach to backing up and recovering data. With CDP, a record of every change to data is written to disk. This makes it possible for CDP software to return any application, database or file system to any previous point in time or process.

Using Revivio's Continuous Protection System (CPS) 1200, one of the first CDP products on the market along with Mendocino's RealTime, backups are now a breeze at Baptist. "Now I can literally restore the application and image files within seconds instead of days," says Weiss, adding that this saves IT staff time and the company money.

Now Weiss is testing out the CPS 1200 with a financial application that he must shut down before running a backup. "The only time we can do a backup on that system is at midnight when all the users are off the system," he says. "The application can be shut down and we can do a cold backup, so we only have a backup we can go to every 24 hours."

With CDP, Weiss could back up the application continuously and give users access to current information should the application fail. "Based on the testing we've been doing, we could actually get everything back up and running within 15 minutes," Weiss says.

In users' hands

Like Revivio's CPS, most CDP packages focus on recovering applications, databases and files and rely on the system administrator to recover users' client-side data. But Storactive's LiveBackup for PCs lets administrators or users recover lost files from Windows desktops or servers. Microsoft , too, will offer recovery by administrators or users when it ships its Data Protection Manager later this year.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) uses Storactive's CDP software to back up 600 desktop PCs at the Golden, Colo., organization. Previously, the lab used traditional back-up software - Veritas Software's Backup Exec - to protect these desktops. Because NREL is a governmental agency, users are required to change their passwords every three to six months. That meant that two to four times a year, the IT staff had to modify 600 scripts for scheduled desktop backups or the back-up operation wouldn't work, explains Todd Wessels, a systems engineer at the lab.

Continuous backup bonanza

A sampling of the vendors that offer continuous data protection.
ProductImplementationDescriptionAvailability
Network Appliance’s Chronospan Host-based software.Will provide Windows, Linux and Unix support for databases, file systems and other data.In beta now/price based on amount of data protected.
Mendocino Software’s RealTimeHost-based software.Protects database, file and application servers.Now/starts at $50,000.
Microsoft’s Data Protection ManagerHost-based software.Will support Windows file servers only; will let users recover files.

Second half of 2005/ pricing

unavailable.

Mimosa Systems’ NearPoint

Host-based software.Specifically for Exchange databases.In beta now/pricing unavailable.
Revivio’s Continuous Protection SystemHardware and software, includes storage capacity.Supports databases, file systems and other data; is operating system and data agnostic.Now/$250,000.
Storactive’s LiveBackup for PCsHost-based software.Backs up Windows PCs and lets users recover PCs.Now/$25-$75 per user.
Storactive’s LiveServ for ExchangeHost-based software.Specifically for Exchange databases.Now/$1,995 per Exchange agent and 25 users.
TimeSpring’s TimeDataHost-based software.Recovers applications and transaction-oriented data.Now/starts at $1,300 per file server.
XOsoft’s Enterprise RewinderHost-based software.Backs up Exchange, SQL Server and Oracle environments.Now/starts at $25,000.

"Eighty percent of our data is sitting at the desktop level. A lot of it is really valuable data - if a researcher were to lose a hard drive, it would be catastrophic," Wessels says. "Using LiveBackup for PCs, researchers can recover their own files." He also says that this not only lets them get back data faster but without asking for help from IT.

With positive results coming from early adopters such as Baptist and NREL, interest in CDP is growing fast - and that has the big storage and back-up vendors closely looking at the technology. EMC and Veritas have announced their intentions to introduce CDP software, and just last month Network Appliance acquired Alacritus Software, a start-up with a CDP product.

CDP will supplement, not replace, traditional back-up and recovery products such as EMC Legato's Networker and Veritas' Backup Exec. Corporations still will rely on such tools, which store data to disk or tape on a scheduled basis, for long-time data archiving.

But no doubt, CDP and its disk-based backup is the future for data protection of both servers and workstations on the network, analysts say. "It seems highly likely that all of the major strategic vendors will have CDP offerings in the next 24 months. It's hard to imagine a scenario where this is not the case," says Brad O'Neill, senior analyst at Taneja Group.

"Without any point-in-time recovery, you cannot establish higher-level application integrated recovery schema," O'Neill adds. "For that reason alone, there is no question that CDP will have a fundamental role in future data centers."

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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