BCS Group Ramps Up Quick-EDD/HA Software Business
June 5, 2012 Alex Woodie
Whether you’re seriously looking for IBM i high availability software or just window shopping, here’s a company that should be on your radar: BCS Group. The Florida company has been selling and installing Trader’s Quick-EDD/HA product for the last three years, and has about 100 customers, a company official says. Now, as the exclusive distributor for Quick-EDD in the United States, BCS is expanding efforts to sell what it perceives to be the best and most affordable HA software on the market.
The story about how Business Continuity Specialists (BCS) Group came to be the American distributor for a French product starts in the middle of the last decade, explains BCS vice president Craig Copeland. Before founding BCS, Copeland and his business partner were happy foot soldiers in Vision Solutions‘ vast reseller network, selling and installing Vision’s OMS/ODS product for a different reseller.
From time to time, Dan Neville, one of the founders of former IBM i high availability vendor iTera, would send Copeland the latest release of his i5/OS high availability product, called Echo2, in an attempt to lure him away from Vision. In 2004, when he ran Echo2 on his iSeries lab, something clicked. “I called my partner and I said, ‘We’re selling the wrong software,'” he tells IT Jungle. “So we switched from Vision to iTera and basically formed BCS at that time.”
Of course, Vision also liked iTera. In fact it liked iTera so much that it bought the company in 2006. For Copeland, that meant ending right back where he started, as a Vision business partner. In addition to working with Echo2, BCS was required to work with ODS/OMS and, following Vision’s 2007 acquisition of Lakeview, MIMIX, too.
In 2008, history repeated itself, as it tends to do. But instead of iTera tempting Copeland and his business partner away from Vision, it was Trader’s managing director Thierry Roux and Robert Seal, the CEO of iSam Blue, which was Trader’s American distributor at the time. Seal was also one of the original developers of Echo2 back in Utah.
“We were a Vision/iTera partner when Robert sent me the code” for Quick-EDD, Copeland says. “I installed it and ran it for a couple of weeks. I called my partner and I said, ‘I think we’re selling the wrong software again.'”
Evaluating HA Options
In 2004, when Copeland switched from the original Vision product to Echo2, he did so for technical and ease-of-use reasons. Echo2 was on the forefront of using remote journaling as the main data replication mechanism, and that brought advantages over competitors in terms of speed and simplicity, he said.
In 2008, when Copeland switched from Echo2 to Quick-EDD, which doesn’t use remote journaling, simplicity and performance were once again the key attributes weighing in on his decision.
“Some of the things I liked about iTera was that it worked, it was simpler to use, and it was pretty fast,” says Copeland, who has been in the IBM midrange high availability business since 1987. “iTera kind of turned HA upside down in the U.S. because everybody switched over to remote journaling because it was so fast.
“The problem I had with iTera,” he continues, “was that there was some lack of functionality in the product that they didn’t appear to have any interest in putting in–things like iASP support, library redirects, and clustering. Those were negatives, but for the most part, we were able to work around it. We lost some deals to MIMIX because of iASP support. As a Vision partner, I replaced iTera with MIMIX a couple of times because of that. That didn’t make me happy, because I wanted to stay true to iTera.”
Eventually, however, some of the luster of Echo2 and the whole remote journaling concept began to wear off for Copeland, especially as he learned more about Quick-EDD. While there are a lot of plusses to remote journaling, one of the negatives is that “it’s a non-intelligence transport. It just dumps the data on the target,” he says. “So whatever data hits the journal, the remote journal pumps it to the target. The good thing is it’s relatively fast. The bad thing is it dumps too much garbage to the target.”
By contrast, Quick-EDD’s proprietary “port to port” replication method can filter out non-essential transactions, and thereby cut the bandwidth requirement by up to 50 percent, Copeland claims. Compression can further reduce the volume of data by another 93 percent, he says.
Overall, Quick-EDD takes a very “lean and mean” approach to high availability, according to Copeland. “The product is written in machine interface, so it’s extremely fast and has a small footprint on the customer,” he says. “It has only 112 objects in the library, and it’s only 6.2 MB in size. It’s extremely fast and efficient and it puts a small footprint on the machine. We only take on average 2 to 3 percent CPU, which is a huge differentiator between us and our competition.”
The software offers good performance with data replication and synchronization checks, Copeland says. “The product doesn’t have a bunch of physical files,” he says. It uses user spaces and user indexes, so everything it does, when it replicates or synchronizes new objects, it’s doing at the address level, instead of dealing with things totally at the object level.”
At the same time, the software supports advanced functions that may be required by larger IBM i shops, such as library directs and support for IBM i clustering and iASPs. “We did extensive background checks before making the switch from Vision to EDD and they [Trader’s] had some very large customers running this in Europe,” Copeland says. “I was just impressed with the customer base, the references, the product, and the size of the product.”
Building a Quick-EDD Business
In 2009, BCS signed a deal with iSam Blue to sell and install Quick-EDD to customers in the United States. Interest in the product was high, and BCS racked up about 20 customers in the first three months as a Quick-EDD reseller, Copeland says.
A disagreement between iSam Blue and Trader’s led to a breakup between the companies, and as a result, Trader’s signed BCS about a year and a half ago to become the new exclusive distributor for Quick-EDD in the United States, U.S. territories, and the Caribbean. Quebec-based Present is the exclusive distributor for Quick-EDD in Canada. iSam Blue is now selling a private-label version of Bug Busters RSF-HA product, as well as Tributary Systems virtual tape library (VTL) software, called Storage Director.
Since becoming the master distributor, BCS has grown the business. Today, the company has about 15 resellers, including full partners and referral partners. Eventually, Copeland would like to have a network of about 40 partners selling and installing Quick-EDD around the country.
BCS’s P-group pricing policy for Quick-EDD encourages a volume approach. “Everybody else that I’m aware of has gone to CPW- and processor-based pricing,” Copeland says. “If one of our customers upgrades their system and stays in same P group, we don’t charge them for the upgrade, even though their CPW may have quadrupled. That’s a huge difference between us and the competition.” [Editor’s note: Maxava also uses P-group pricing with its IBM i HA software.]
Copeland says the customer base has grown to 100, representing Quick-EDD installations on about 300 iSeries, System i, and IBM i-based Power Systems machines in the U.S. and offshore. These customers depend on BCS to provide technical support on a 24/7/365 basis. No customer has needed to perform a roll swap due to an environmental emergency, such as a hurricane or a tornado, but the company has assisted in several roll swaps due to system failures, Copeland says.
BCS also offers an HA cloud solution through its partnership with IBM i data center hoster Abacus Solutions. This gives customers the option to locate their backup servers in a secure data center. For customers who want to keep their target boxes onsite, BCS offers a remote server management service.
Currently, BCS has about a dozen employees, who work out of the headquarters near Orlando and satellite offices in Atlanta, Georgia; Anaheim, California; Ormond Beach, Florida; and Nashville, Tennessee. More employees are expected to be hired as the company grows, Copeland says.
As it grows, BCS will be diligent to keep the focus on HA. “We’re strictly a high availability company,” Copeland says. “This is all we do. We don’t do hardware or payroll. Everything we do is connected to protecting the data.”
This article was updated to reflect the fact that Maxava also uses P-group pricing with its IBM i HA software.