Bug Busters Achieves High Availability Milestone with RSF 8.1
October 2, 2007 Alex Woodie
Bug Busters Software Engineering last month issued a major release of its flagship product, Remote Software Facility version 8.1, that can replicate nearly every type of object on the i5/OS platform, including user profiles and data queues. And with a price tag of about $10,000, the number of reasons for not considering RSF–still used primarily by ISVs for distributing software updates to customers–for an i5/OS high availability project just dropped again.
For the past 15 months, Bug Busters has been turning RSF into a real-time data and object replication engine that can be used by System i shops to avoid catastrophic data loss in the event of a disaster. First, the company added more detailed synchronization management capability with RSF version 7.3, which launched in June 2006. Then the company added support for record-level replication with version 8.0, which debuted this January.
RSF 8.0 had many of the capabilities offered by other high availability products, including replication of database files, data areas, IFS objects, spooled files, message queues, and other objects. However, the product still lacked support for replicating some of the i5/OS platform’s critical objects, such as user profiles and data queues, which are typically required for true high availability.
With RSF version 8.1, Bug Busters added replication support for seven new object types, including user profiles, data queues, system values, network attributes, authorization lists, object level authorities, and BLOBS and CLOBS (binary large objects and character large objects, respectively).
This gives RSF users the capability to replicate just about everything they would want to replicate, says Bug Busters chief executive, Bruce Lesnick. “There are probably a few esoteric objects types you can’t mirror,” he says, “but nothing of consequence.”
While it may lack some of the higher-end features of other high availability products in the market–such as graphical interfaces, support for i5/OS clustering, and a more automated failover process–RSF 8.1 gives Bug Busters and its customers a solid, if not glitzy, high availability offering to work with, Lesnick says.
“What we’ve done with this release is covered all of the essentials,” he says. “You can now replicate everything on a machine to another machine with our software. And do it in an easy, efficient way. The next step will be talking with customers to see what they’re most interested in in terms of additional features, but we’re definitely going to be examining clustering and some of the other high-end futures [such as support for independent auxiliary storage pools and cross site mirroring]. . . and a graphical interface.”
In addition to support for replication of the new object types, RSF 8.1 adds a new management interface that centralizes much of the information and tasks that administrators need to monitor and maintain replication. “We’ve given them a nice ‘work with’-style interface [WRKRSFSA] on the iSeries that lets them see on the source machine everything that’s happening in one place,” Lesnick says. “From there they can easily detect any errors, look at logs, and start and stop replication from point A to point B.”
The form of replication that RSF uses–how it gets data from point A to point B–is an important differentiator for the product, according to Lesnick. RSF employs traditional journaling, the predominant method used before the introduction of remote journaling-based products, notably Vision Solutions‘ iTera HA (formerly Echo2), which has sold very well over the last three years.
With traditional journaling, the software vendor (in this case Bug Busters) writes a “journal scrape” routine that grabs the changes logged in i5/OS’ various journals. These changes are then bundled, sent across the wire at various intervals (controlled by the user), and applied by RSF running on the target server.
“Remote journaling had some limitations built in that we didn’t like,” Lesnick says. “Remote journaling requires extra configuration that folks have to do. It’s extra software that has to run and be controlled on the target machine, whereas in our case, everything is controlled from the source machine. They know what they’ve got there. They know if they got applied successfully on the target. That’s part of why it’s easier for folks to set it up and maintain and monitor.”
Lesnick admits, however, that remote journaling may provide a slight edge in the performance department, because it’s controlled by the i5/OS server’s system software. “But I don’t think it’s significant,” he says.
One area where Bug Busters seeks to have a definite edge on competing products is price. With licenses for RSF 8.1 running in the neighborhood of $5,000 to $7,000 per server or partition, that puts a complete, dual-server (or dual-partition) RSF-based high availability solution in the range of $10,000 to $14,000. That’s at least 30 percent less expensive than competitors are charging for their lowest-cost offering, Lesnick claims.
Also, while other vendors use a tiered approach–in their licensing and in their product offerings–Bug Busters will strive for single-level simplicity with its product’s capabilities and licensing schemes. In other words, there is only one version of RSF that includes all capabilities, not separate versions that don’t include functions, such replication of IFS files. And licenses for RSF cost the same whether the software is running on the smallest Model 515 or the largest Model 595.
This is a good time to be in the i5/OS high availability market, especially with the recent industry consolidation and the continued need for low-cost high availability, according to Lesnick. “I don’t think it bodes well for the cost of high availability solutions with the merger of the other companies,” he says.
However, Bug Busters won’t embark on a full-out marketing blitz to tell the world about its product, preferring instead to let the news spread by word of mouth (or calls to reporters) and to keep costs down. “Marketing is so expensive, and one of the reasons high availability has been so expensive,” Lesnick says.
Bug Busters is also looking to build its customer base through partnerships. The company, which is based in Seattle, Washington, has established distributors in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Iceland, where RSF has sold pretty well and even been used to replace other high availability products, Lesnick says. The company is still looking to add more partners to resell RSF in the U.S.
For more information on what’s new in RSF version 8.1, see www.bugbusters.net/rsf_new.htm.