EVault Brings Online Backups to the iSeries
by Alex Woodie
EVault launched the OS/400 community's first online backup technology last week. EVault iSeries, the OS/400 version of the vendor's disk-to-disk backup and recovery offering that sends data offsite using IP networks, promises faster and more versatile back ups and recoveries than standard tape backups, while avoiding the hassle and expense of high-end mirroring solutions. The solution is available as either licensed software or an outsourced service using the vendor's data centers.
Phil Gilmour, chief executive of Walnut Creek, California, based EVault, is a tape displacement aficionado. He realizes that, while the iSeries is a pretty reliable machine, tape-based backup processes--no matter what the platform--are vulnerable to human error. "Inherent in the iSeries are pretty good tape backup capabilities. As far as data recovery, the iSeries has a lot of that. They're very stable machines; that's why they're so good," Gilmour says. "The only thing that remains, is when facilities are closed down, and you need to have data offsite, the current methodology is to run your tape to an Iron Mountain," a well-known provider of media vaulting services.
And herein lies the core value proposition of EVault: instead of paying a media vaulting service to drive your tapes to a secure, offsite location, you use the Internet to move that data for you and get rid of your tape drives and media along the way.
In addition to the sheer cost savings from eliminating tape hardware, and more uptime as a result of speedier backups and recoveries, there are several benefits to so-called "electronic vaulting," or online backups, Gilmour says. For example, users can perform several point-in-time snapshots of their data and recover their machines to any one of them.
Compared with using tapes, users will also gain better backup scheduling and tracking with EVault iSeries, Gilmour says. "It's a manual process to do two things: first, to move the tapes, and, two, to manage and track them. EVault removes all that because this gets scheduled, and it does it automatically, without any intervention, and you get verification that it was copied offsite instantly," he says. "Even with tape, it's hard to get verification."
EVault offers iSeries shops the choice of licensed software or outsourced service. The EVault iSeries service, in which the client's data is held in EVault data centers, is ideal for small and midsized businesses with smaller IT budgets. Monthly service fees are based on the amount of customer data on EVault's secure servers (customers can update and access their data as often as they like), and range from as little as $100, per month for a few gigabytes, to $15,000 for many gigabytes, or terabytes, of compressed data. On average, customers pay EVault about $700 per month, Gilmour says.
Candidates for the licensed software are larger shops that already have enough server capacity in-house and are looking to shrink slow tape backup times by implementing disk-to-disk backups, while keeping their data behind a firewall and complying with industry regulations. License fees for EVault's InfoStage software (which is the same used in the service offering) start at $30,000 for protection of 10 servers.
EVault's InfoStage software includes three components: Agent, Director, and CentralControl. The Agent, which is a small component that resides on the server being protected, kicks-off backups according to parameters that have been set up for each backup task.
The Director component authenticates and accepts data from the Agent and provides lifecycle management of data residing on EVault's servers--or a storage area network (SAN), if running the software in-house. The Director also migrates and purges backup data. The Windows-based CentralControl software is used to configure and manages all Agents and controls the "how, what, when, and where" of the backups, the company says.
To support the iSeries, EVault ported its Agent software to run natively under OS/400. One of the key components of the Agent is the DeltaPro technology, which does two things to reduce the amount of raw data sent down the pipe. First, as its name suggests, DeltaPro takes delta snapshots of the data, to send only the data that's been changed. It also applies compression on the backup data. Somewhat surprisingly, the actual port of the C++ code to OS/400 was quite easy, Gilmour says. Getting the green-screen interfaces right, he says, was more challenging.
All data sent out over the Internet is first encrypted using 3DES or AES standards. The company also offers write once, read many (WORM) capability for regulatory compliance in industries like financial services and healthcare.
EVAULT AND ISERIES BACKUPS
EVault iSeries can be used to perform basic full system saves for servers on OS/400 V5R1 and V5R2. It doesn't currently offer some of the finer-grained features you can find using other backup facilities available for OS/400, which many small and midsized businesses probably don't use anyway.
The EVault iSeries Agent supports backing up database objects, IFS files, and system data types, according to release notes available on the company's Web site. The Agent can read and write database files and other objects, and saves and restores logical files at the end of each task. Additionally, the Agent can back up and restore system state, and creates log files and e-mail notifications to let administrators know when backups have been completed.
In terms of its limitations, the software currently does not support supported QDOC, QSPL, QRPLOBJ, QRECOVERY, QSRV, and QTEMP libraries and data. It also doesn't support Job Queues, Message Queues, Data Queues, or User Queues, the company says. The current Agent also doesn't support the backup or restoration of individual database members. EVault is working to support the current OS/400 release, i5/OS.
Like many success stories, EVault's has an unlikely beginning. Gilmour, an accountant by trade, was working at his Bay Area firm when he experienced a "devastating" database crash. Determined that there was a business opportunity here, Gilmour founded EVault in 1997 to help small and midsized businesses with their backups. In 2001, EVault made a key technology acquisition with the purchase of VytalVault, a Toronto, Ontario, company created by Ray Ganong, who is now EVault's chief technology officer.
The privately held firm has gone through several rounds of venture capital financing and is growing quite quickly now, at a rate of 30 percent revenue per month, according to Gilmour. The company has about 100 employees and was recently named one of the fastest growing privately held companies in East Bay area.
The majority of EVault's 1,500 direct customers are small and midsized businesses that choose the outsourced service to back up their servers, which are predominantly Windows machines. But about a third of its revenue now comes from larger businesses, such as a large hotel chain and a network of 70 hospitals, which have a more diverse computing environment and are choosing to run the software in-house.
Being able to support all of these customers' computers was one of the reasons the company decided to support the OS/400 server. "We're doing their laptops and desktops, their print and file servers," Gilmour says, "and here, sitting in the corner, is the iSeries, chugging away on some pretty important data."
THE SUNGARD CONNECTION
Another reason EVault chose to support the iSeries is the company's new partnership with SunGard, which it announced in August. The iSeries accounts for the second largest installed base for the disaster recovery hot site provider, Gilmour says. SunGard is also a key driver in the majority of new business EVault is seeing in Europe, where the iSeries is arguably more popular among smaller businesses than it is here in the United States.
The young partnership with SunGard has already opened some important doors for EVault. First, EVault's clients' data is now held in SunGard's world-class data centers, albeit on Windows machines, but with RAID-5 protection. Second, SunGard will become a reseller for EVault's software and services, Gilmour says. The plan is for SunGard to offer EVault's data-movement technology to clients, to get them up and running quickly at hot sites following disasters. Getting tapes to a hot site facility is one of the most time consuming aspects of disaster recovery. With EVault, recovery times should be considerably faster for SunGard's customers, OS/400 and otherwise.
While the partnership with SunGard helps EVault on many levels, the company is also looking to form reseller partnerships with iSeries resellers. EVault would like to have its online backup service bundled with sales of new servers. Gilmour sees EVault helping resellers to get customers quickly back up and running quickly when they must do a bare-metal provisioning of a new (or used) iSeries following a disaster.
EVault is not yet an IBM partner, although it is a partner of Microsoft, which yesterday announced a competing online backup offering called Data Protection Server, which isn't expected to ship for about year and will only support Windows servers.
EVault iSeries is available now. For more information, go to www.evault.com.
This article has been corrected since it was first published. The EVault iSeries Agent uses its own data compression, not OS/400's, as originally stated. Guild Companies regrets the error. [Change made 9/23/04.]