Vision Solutions Promotes Two Flavors of Continuous Data Protection
August 10, 2009 Dan Burger
Although the number of IBM iSeries shops that run AIX, or backup AIX, in a partition on the iSeries is pretty much a speck on the map, a considerably larger number of iSeries shops share their data center space with significant AIX systems. Disaster recovery and high availability vendor Vision Solutions sees this mix on a regular basis. Although well-known on the i side, the company is looking for a similarly commanding position on the AIX side.
Vision was able to gain its dominating status in the AS/400 market through a combination of product development and acquisitions of its key competitors, first iTera and then Lakeview Technology. It has been developing AIX products for years, but has had a greater investment in this area since it was purchased by Thoma Cressey Equity Partners (now Thoma Bravo) in 2006.
When it comes to establishing an AIX business, Vision Solutions has been far more successful outside of the i installed base than it has been inside that demographic where it owns the lion’s share of the disaster recovery and high availability market. In spite of both operating systems sharing the Power Systems platform, the two camps don’t have all that much in common. Rich Krause, senior product marketing manager at Vision, says he just doesn’t see than many shops running both AIX and i on the same box. “In our enterprise customers,” Krause says, “if they have both AIX and i/OS, they have separate boxes.”
So, along with separate boxes you get separate architecture and infrastructure. In other words, the silos still exist. The convergence of i 6.1 and AIX 6.1 on Power Systems, so far, hasn’t changed that reality. In Krause’s view of the landscape, companies are not–to any large degree–running both operating systems on one box. And as an example he points to his direct involvement with 42 new AIX customers last year. Of those, only two were i shops.
On the other hand, Krause says that Vision has long-time i customers asking what they can do for the AIX piece of high availability and disaster recovery plans because they are backing up the pSeries boxes to partitions on the iSeries.
Bridging the two platforms with a product portfolio is what Vision wants to do. And one of its current technologies that is being used on both sides is called Vision RightTime CDP. The CDP is shorthand for continuous data protection. On the i side CDP is built into a product called RecoverNow and on the AIX side the product is called EchoStream. The key to CDP is that it provides a flexible recovery point that’s unavailable when tape backup is the only backup and recovery option.
Both EchoStream and RecoverNow accomplish the same objective, which is keeping track of data so that it’s possible to go back to a point in time and retrieve data. But their underlying plumbing and some of the capabilities are different.
On AIX platforms, EchoStream is a replication technology that is designed as a box-to-box failover type of protection. “When EchoStream is doing its replication, it’s creating a live, fully constructed, usable second copy of the data,” says Bill Hammond director of product marketing at Vision.
In that regard, it is similar to upscale Vision products like iTera HA or MIMIX. The purpose of EchoStream is much less complex. It would likely be used to recover from a software corruption, virus attack, deleted files, or some other cause of data loss. It also can be combined with Vision’s EchoCluster as an AIX cluster management solution to provide an automated failover to an alternate local or remote server.
On i platforms, the journaling features of the operating system provide the continuous data protection capability underpinning RecoverNow. Its primary purpose is made for disaster recovery and situations that entail a production box that is down, needs to be fixed, and then reloaded with a much more current recovery point than would be available when relying solely on the last tape backup and figuring out what data is missing since that back up was concluded. In other words, recovery time is not so critical, but recovery point is.
One of the distinctions on with the i product is that RecoverNow can take its data from the source i box and back it up to a choice of platforms for the target box. EchoStream is a strictly AIX-to-AIX link. Because of that, you’ll find that a recovery strategy on the AIX side often is deployed simply to protect a single application or set of applications because a speedy recovery time is essential.
Last week, Vision Solutions introduced EchoStream 3.5, the latest release of its AIX disaster recovery solution featuring continuous data protection. Those i shops running AIX in a partition might check out the no-cost trial program available at http://www.visionsolutions.com/ESTrial.
For more information on the topic of continuous data protection, Vision Solutions has a white paper titled The Benefits of CDP Technology in IBM i (i5/OS) and AIX Environments. It can be downloaded here.