Hibernia Atlantic bids for long-range disaster recovery

A fibre-optic cable linking North America and Ireland will be put to use as a disaster recovery and business continuity service run by Hibernia Atlantic, a start-up funded by Columbia Ventures Corp. The company opened its doors for business Thursday with a demonstration of the service at its North American office in Lynn, Mass.

Hibernia wants to persuade businesses to back-up their data in a location far removed from their headquarters, and is introducing a service that will allow companies to use a dedicated 155Mbps bandwidth connection across the Atlantic Ocean known as an STM-1 for US$10,000 a month, said Ken Peterson, CEO of Columbia Ventures.

Just about every major company backs up its data on a regular basis, and sends that data to a secondary location so if the primary headquarters goes off the network due to a disaster, the company can restore its data. This means setting up backup data centres relatively close to the primary location for no other reason than to provide a fall-back option, Peterson said.

For companies that already have data centres on both sides of the Atlantic, Hibernia’s fibre-optic cable will allow them to take a snapshot of their data at their New York location and send that on a regular basis across the Atlantic to their Dublin or London data centres.

During a demonstration held simultaneously for audiences in Lynn and at its Dublin headquarters, Hibernia demonstrated how a 1,000-user network could be replicated from Massachusetts to Ireland in about 14 minutes, far faster and cheaper than any current Trans-Atlantic option, according to the company.

To avoid multiple failures, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to recommend that companies establish data centres outside of their general geographic area, roughly defined by a 322km circle, Hibernia said during its presentation. The new service will allow companies to comply with those rules without sacrificing any performance due to latency or prohibitive costs, Peterson said.

Nearly every speaker during the presentation referred to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York and Washington, D.C., as a reason businesses are concerned about disaster recovery. But disasters are responsible for very few interruptions in data availability, compared with equipment failures or planned maintenance outages, according to information from Gartner Inc. cited during the presentation. Businesses with offices on both sides of the Atlantic will be able to use this service as part of their regular backup and recovery procedures, Hibernia said.

The company’s cable was laid by optical fibre company 360networks Corp. 360networks was a victim of the telecom industry implosion of 2001, filing for bankruptcy in June of that year. Columbia Ventures bought the cable and four landing stations in Lynn; Dublin; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Southport, England for US$18 million in bankruptcy court, Peterson said.

Since it has four separate landing points organized in a ring, Hibernia believes its network is safer than other direct links between New Jersey and England than most optical fibre companies laid across the Atlantic, Peterson said. If one cable failed, companies could still send data back and forth over the second cable, he said.

Hibernia’s network depends on storage equipment and software from EMC Corp., networking equipment from Nortel Networks Corp. and Computer Network Technology Inc. (CNT), and an interface developed by CNT. Representatives of all three companies spoke during the presentation.

“Companies will be able to cut data replication costs, and increase the amount of data they send across the Atlantic [with Hibernia’s service],” said Dave Barton, vice president of sales for North America at CNT.

While the company intends to initially focus on data replication and data distribution services for companies in both North America and Ireland, it expects that the quick connection will spur demand for other Trans-Atlantic services, such as video conferencing. Attendees at the Lynn launch event watched a presentation at the company’s Ireland offices, and were able to ask questions of speakers in Ireland with little lag time.