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Volume 9, Number 5 -- February 3, 2009

Vault400 Debuts Tiered DR and Managed HA Services

Published: February 3, 2009

by Alex Woodie

Vault400 is rolling out a series of new disaster recovery (DR) and managed high availability (HA) services aimed at giving Power Systems server customers a recovery time that's tailored to their needs. Depending on the service selected, Vault400's new Tiered Recovery offering guarantees that customers will have their complete System i environments back online within either 24 hours, 12 hours, or 1 hour. That's a huge improvement over the quickest recovery time Vault400 previously offered.

As a data vaulting company, Vault400 provides a safe repository for customers' data, and helps them eliminate their reliance on tape. The company, which was launched several years ago as the data vaulting and DR arm of System i reseller United Computer Group of Cleveland, Ohio, relies heavily on data vaulting technology from i365, formerly EVault, and now part of Seagate.

Vault400's business model previously had a large do-it-yourself component. If customers needed access to their data, they could go on the Web and download the latest version of their data from Vault400's encrypted SAN. If a customer's System i server was a complete loss, Vault400 could get a replacement within three to five days under its "DR Quick-Ship" program. Customers knew their data was safe and well-documented in Vault400's time-stamped archive. But if they needed to get back up and running more quickly, they were out of luck.

Now, Vault400 is ramping up the recovery aspect of its business with the new Tiered Recovery offering. The i OS data vaulting agent (from i365) still plays a big role in Vault400's business. But instead of shipping customers a new System i server following a disaster--which customers will still need to load the operating system, PTFs, and their data on to--Vault400 will allow customers to recover their entire i OS environments on System i servers running in its data centers, providing a window of opportunity for customers to get back on their feet. And if they need a high availability environment, Vault400 will run it for them.

The new offering constitutes a large investment in System i hardware, bandwidth, and data center space, in Ohio and Georgia, on the part of Vault400. It also constitutes a promise that Vault400 has the technical expertise to not only recover each customer's i OS environment on a 24/7 basis, but to operate a complex HA environment if needed.

"It's a very strong financial commitment, and also managerial commitment to say we're in this marketplace," says Jim Kandrac, president of UCG. "That's why we're beefing up our data centers. Columbus is top shelf. Atlanta [where HA is managed] also is very adequate."

Different RTOs for Different Folks

Tiered Recovery comes down to having warm hardware ready for customers to move to should a disaster strike. Depending on the level of protection they need and the foreseeable difficulties that could slow down a recovery, customers pay more for a quicker recovery time objective (RTO).

Vault400's new 12-hour and 24-hour Tiered Recovery offerings both utilize the IBM i data vaulting agent from i365, and are structured very similarly, except for one crucial detail: shared versus dedicated hardware. "That's a big difference," Kandrac says. "There's a premium. They're going to pay for that."

Here's how the 24-hour offering works. Upon declaring a disaster, Vault400 will create a logical partition (LPAR) with the necessary resources in one of the shared System i servers, and then start to re-create the i OS environment, along with all required PTFs, a process that takes about 12 hours. Vault400 will also provide the customer with the serial number for the new environment, so they can get DR license keys from their application vendors. The second 12 hours will be spent loading the customer's data from Vault400's giant SAN. Vault400 moves data at network speed of 75 GB an hour, which translates into 1 TB during a 12-hour period. Once the data is loaded, the customer can access their applications via VPN.

Under the 12-hour offering, i OS and required PTFs are pre-loaded onto a System i server (or LPAR) that is dedicated exclusively to that customer. This carries two advantages. First, it eliminates the need to load the operating system and PTF levels after a disaster, and it allows Vault400 to start loading data approximately 12 hours sooner.

Secondly, because the customer already has a serial number for the server, the customer can have its DR license keys pre-loaded onto the backup machine. This could be a crucial factor if the customer's application vendor doesn't have a 24/7/365 helpdesk. If the customer is confident it can get its vendor on the phone at 3 a.m. Sunday morning and a 12-hour versus 24-hour RTO is not a big deal, then the 24-hour offering may be the best option.

Customers that need an RTO of one hour or less are candidates for Vault400's new managed services HA offering, which is run out of a data center in Atlanta. Vault400 will use either *noMAX from Maximum Availability or iTera HA from Vision Solutions; the final HA product has not yet been selected.

A Managed HA Hand to Lean On

Candidates for the managed services HA offering are System i shops that are having difficulty keeping up with the care and feeding of their HA environment, Kandrac says. "We get pings from companies all the time. They say, 'Jim I've got this HA stuff. It's there. It's paid for. But it's broke. Our budget and our personnel were cut, and we're not in synch,'" he says. "We have a prospective client who has been through three IT people through two years to manage a nine iSeries operation that has HA and it's not functional because of that. So there's a huge advantage to having a managed service."

While the managed HA offering will attract its share of customers, the other two options dominate interest in the new Tiered Recovery offering, Kandrac says.

"I think the sweet spot, pricing and cost effective wise, is the shared or dedicated system, in 12 or 24 hours," he says. "It's the same amount of money to have that shared system sitting there as the DR Quick-Ship, where we pluck it, set it up, port their data, and ship it to them, and they're down three to five days. For the same amount of money, wouldn't you prefer to be up within 24 hours and just do the VPN and come up remotely?"

Vault400 can handle about 3 TB to 3.5 TB of customer data in the 12-hour and 24-hour Tiered Recovery offerings. The company can compress the data at ratios that vary from 6 to one to 10 to one, which means Vault400 will store up to 500 GB of net compressed data in its massive platform-independent data vault. Operating systems as far back as OS/400 V5R1 are supported.

Vault400 is also supporting Intel-based servers with its 12-hour and 24-hour Tiered Recovery offerings. Instead of carving up a System i into multiple LPARs, the company uses virtualization technology from VMware to create customer environments on shared Intel-based servers. The i365 data vaulting agents collect data from Windows, Linux, and Unix systems in the same manner as the System i, providing a true multi-platform offering. "They're getting out of the tape business, and they have three to seven years of backups, live and available online," Kandrac says.

The final bit of Kandrac's sales pitch involves value and keeping things in perspective. A customer with a typical P10 System i machine might pay Vault400 $500 a month for the basic vaulting service. To add the Tiered Recovery options, the monthly bill might increase somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 to $1,000 per month. Managed HA starts at $1,500 per month.

To put this into perspective, Kandrac compares Tiered Recovery to the cost of health insurance, which is $600 per month for the average family. He discusses this with a hypothetical CFO of a hypothetical company with 250 employees.

"So you're spending $1.8 million per year to protect the health of your employees. That's very good and that's very admirable," he says. "But we're standing here having an issue about spending $9,000 per year to protect the most valuable asset of your company. For the cost of one family's health insurance, you're protecting your entire corporation? Are you kidding me? It's the best darn deal out there."


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