Storage startups spur rapid recovery

Storage start-ups Revivio Inc. and TimeSpring Software Corp. are readying software that lets users recover lost or corrupted data in minutes instead of hours or days.

When the products are introduced later this year, they’ll join a growing market segment that emphasizes instant recovery of data and continuous protection, rather than data backup. Recently, two other start-ups, Vyant Technologies Inc. and FilesX Inc., and established storage vendor Storage Technology Corp., launched products in this area.

“The devil’s in the recovery when it comes to backup,” says Bill Saba, director of IS for long-distance provider Startec Global Communications, who uses Vyant’s recently introduced RealTime software. RealTime works on Solaris and AIX pla forms.

“Backup is a no-brainer. Recovering from a failure is a problematic step depending on what you’ve encountered,” Saba says.

These software packages are much different than traditional backup and recovery, replication and snapshot tools, which are limited by the frequency with which a customer uses them to back up the network and by how quickly they can restore corrupted data.

In the systems from these five companies, all changes are recorded as they are written to disk and the time of the change noted. If a failure occurs, data can be retrieved from the closest minute, rather than from when the last scheduled full or incremental backup occurred.

“Anyone who is backing up to tape is looking at a lengthy recovery process,” says Bob Passmore, research director at Gartner Inc. “The time to mount a tape, search and find the right data, stream the data back in, (and) reboot the application is a process that can take from a few minutes to a couple of days. For applications that are up on the Internet being used 24 hours a day, the recovery requirements are more in seconds, not in minutes or hours a day.”

When Startec initially migrated its business systems to an Oracle database, it had a problem that corrupted the control file and took two days to fix. The company installed RealTime.

“RealTime has a time-slide mechanism where you can go back and recover data from any point in time,” Saba says. “When we lost an AIX file system, we knew exactly when it happened and recovered data in 15 minutes. All you have to determine is when the damage occurred and go back to just before it, and bring back data from that point.”

Revivio’s software, called Backtrac, is appliance-based – the software installs on an off-the-shelf server, which sits between the Fibre Channel devices and the tape library. The software captures data continuously without taking down the database or network and time-stamps each disk write to the back-up device.

TimeSpring’s product, TimeSpring Protector, will be formally launched late this year. Like Backtrac, TimeSpring Protector is installed on a server, called the Continuous Protection Server, which sits between network and the backup device. Agents are installed on protected servers. When data changes, it is continually stored to the Continuous Protection Server, from which it can be retrieved based on the corruption time. It works with direct-attached, network-attached and Fibre Channel storage and with Windows networks.

Initially, analysts say, these protection products won’t replace traditional back-up and recovery software from vendors such as Legato Systems Inc. and Veritas Software Corp.

“Sometimes they will replace, sometimes they will complement,” Passmore says. “Larger storage companies are not completely unaware of the approaches these start-ups are trying to bring to market. I would predict that most, if not all, of the large players will have competing products in one form or another.”

Revivio expects Backtrac will start at about US$50,000; Protector will be priced per protected server starting at $4,000.