Shield Shoots the Gap Between HA and Vaulting with LVLT4i
October 21, 2014 Alex Woodie
Shield Advanced Solutions is gearing up to launch Library Vault for IBM i, a new data vaulting solution aimed at larger IBM i shops and managed service providers. LVLT4i uses an interesting mix of remote journaling, object replication, and independent auxiliary storage pool (IASP) technologies, which Shield says provide the data protection of a full high availability solution but without the cost and complexity.
LVLT4i is a hybrid product that borrows the data and object replication capabilities from HA4i, the company’s remote journaling-based high availability software. Because remote journaling only protects database files, Shield built its own object replication process for HA4i to ensure that all the necessary application objects are moved over the wire and kept in sync on the target system.
But whereas HA4i was designed to replicate entire LPARs from one system to another, LVLT4i takes a different approach. Instead of writing the data and objects of an entire system into an LPAR on a target system, LVLT4i replicates just a few key data files and objects to a target system. And instead of putting in a separate LPAR, it writes them into an IASP on the target system.
“We took the object replication of HA4i and the data replication as well, but added the IASP,” says Shield president Chris Hird. “So instead of writing it to the same place, we’re now able to say, ‘I’m going to write and store it in the IASP.’ That’s the biggest change. We’re not providing switching, and we’re only doing specific libraries.”
The result is a lightweight data replication that offers a recovery point objective (RPO) that’s very close to zero, just like a full HA solution, but at the price point of a data vaulting solution. Because LVLT4i doesn’t support the failover components, the recovery time objective (RTO) is similar to other vaulting products, or about 12 hours. It’s an ideal approach for customers who can afford the risk of being offline for half a day but who cannot risk losing any data, Hird says.
“It’s for shops who are looking for less than HA but more than vaulting,” Hird tells IT Jungle. “We’re giving them the vaulting capability by having a very narrow and specific set of data and objects. It makes it cheaper for everybody. They’re not going to be paying to replicate the entire system. They’re only going to be paying to replicate a few objects. And the IASP is only going to be charging them for storing a few objects and not managing the OS and everything else that goes with it.”
Using an IASP is important to Shield because it enables a customer or an MSP to maintain data segregation without incurring the overhead and complexity of managing full LPARs for each and every production system or client. It’s common for many production systems to have libraries with the same names, which is a problem if they’re stored in the same LPAR. But by storing all of the data in separate IASPs, customers can keep the duplicate library names and not worry about conflicts. It also allows customers to be very specific in which objects and data files they replicate.
Hird built LVLT4i after an MSP wanted to use HA4i to replicate data from its clients’ IBM i systems to a large centralized backup system. The MSP needed HA4i because it could replicate objects, which DR4i can’t do. However, the MSP didn’t need everything in HA4i, so it wanted Shield to strip out a bunch of the functionality.
Instead, Hird decided to create an entirely new product. The really interesting bit is how Hird fit the IASP into the picture to make the MSPs happy. “We took it a stage further and said we need to do an IASP,” he said. “We’ve got other MSPs showing some interest and they need IASP support because they’re going to have a lot of smaller clients being backed up to a fairly big machine. Carving it up into different IASPs allows them to save on system management.”
The RTO with LVLT4i is really in the hands of the MSP and how quickly it can spin up a new IBM i environment and load the customer’s IASP onto it. That is typically on the order of 12 hours with most vaulting solutions, although some are offering four and eight hour RTOs with vaulting solutions.
But the use of IASPs with LVLT4i opens up an interesting possibility. If the MSP or customer is able to incorporate switchable IASPs into the equation–via a product like IBM’s PowerHA–then the RTO could be cut down significantly. That would require some additional investment on the part of the MSP, but it’s a direction that some may choose to take, Hird says.
Pricing for LVLT4i hasn’t been set yet. The software will be offered on a subscription basis, which will make MSPs happy. For more info, see www.shieldadvanced.com.