Low Cost Linux/Windows Continuous Data Protection Solution Emerges

Continuous data protection has long been a staple for R1Soft on the Linux platform. With 90,000 to 95,000 servers protected by R1Soft’s continuous data protection (CDP) product for Linux, one can only wonder how their recent release of CDP for the Windows platform will prevail. It was my pleasure to speak with David Wartell, VP and Founder of R1Soft about this new offering, what it entails, and how it will affect future Windows backups.

Let me say straight out of the gate that being able to offer R1Soft’s CDP solution to support a heterogeneous environment of Windows and various flavors of Linux will surely add to the impact R1Soft can have in the backup space. This is a clear differentiator when compared to other CDP solutions as many others primarily only support Windows.

R1Soft’s new CDP product for Windows is what can be best described as a near-continuous high-performance block level backup that involves taking a point in time snapshot. In Windows it is done with Volume Shadow (VSS) copy, and then uses a near-continuous method to compute the deltas for changes in between backup windows.

When compared with the industry, R1Soft can be thought of running with the near continuous crowd of products like Symantic’s Backup Exec 10d with the CDP option or Microsoft’s DPM. But there are significant differences between R1Soft and other near-continuous solutions. Other near-continuous recovery solutions:

  • Use an API in Windows called volume shadow copies for shared folders that work at the file system level and impose a hard limit of 256 recovery points
  • Rely on a schedule when doing a full backup (like once a day) and protect a set of files, databases, or other important data on an hourly basis

Not so with R1Soft. Instead R1Soft’s CDP near-continuous solution is a bit more complex in that it works at the block level instead of the file level. The secret sauce is its special device driver that tracks changes at the block device as they occur. When synchronizations are done, R1Soft’s CDP solution recognizes the delta changes at the block level, reads those blocks and sends those blocks to be backed up to complete the block level synchronization.

Block level near-continuous scales efficiently and according to how fast changes are happening so the server’s performance (number of I/Os) and capacity (how many files there are) is less important. Synchronization can occur as frequently as every 15 minutes for an entire server, requires no additional hardware, supports 32- and 64-bit Windows servers, offers thousands of recovery points and installs in about 15 minutes.

By implementation near-continuous CDP at the block level rather than the file level also enables R1Soft to support true bare-metal restore capabilities as part the solution. With R1Soft’s bare-metal restores, users no longer need to first re-install the Windows operating system. Supplied with a bootable Linux Live CD ISO image and without the aid of pre-execution or remote installation services, users can simply insert a CD and then select a point-in-time virtual full backup to restore from. This differs from other vendors that are tied to a Windows pre-execution environment or Windows remote installation services and which require more skilled administrators to wade through the complicated restore process.

So far the biggest demand for R1Soft’s CDP solution has been in the under-served Linux and MySQL market. R1Soft’s Wartell tells me that after a customer finds out about the Linux and MySQL solution they immediately want it on Windows servers too. Much of the adoption of R1Soft on the Linux and MySQL platforms has resulted because of an inability for other vendors to step up to the plate.

Just as those same vendors have relied upon Microsoft VSS for their backup solutions, they are waiting on MySQL to produce an API they can hook into. Having solved the MySQL on Linux problem, R1Soft is now turning to the SQL Server on Windows platform. Calling on another business unit (Idera) of their parent company BBS Technologies R1Soft will soon have a complete CDP solution for SQL Server.

The rapid adoption and supplying a CDP solution for heterogeneous environments makes R1Soft’s CDP solution a nice fit for the hosting center market. These hosting centers, with literally service thousands  of servers, is often done without backups being done so these hosting centers need a low-cost and cross-platform solution. It is for these types of reasons that ServePath, after about two years of research and testing of various backup technologies, has chosen to go forward with R1Soft’s technology.

This underserved market is stretched thin in data protection simply because it can not afford the $500 to $1000 per server price tag for a backup solution. Since R1Soft’s near-continuous comes is at $150/server, it betters fits into these budgets and will continue to be R1Soft’s target market thru the first part of next year. At which point R1Soft tells me it will start to turn its attention to the non-hosting enterprise market.

It is quite notable that R1Soft’s CDP solution supports both Windows and Linux platforms and makes it easier for administrators to cross-support environments with the same tool. Their technology and pricing strategy will no doubt continue to serve and gain momentum among this hosting center niche with heterogeneous environments which it has traditionally served. However as it starts to enter mainstream enterprise corporations where product cost is not the only concern, it will start to face more stringent questions about interoperability and support that it may not yet be ready to answer.

About James Koopmann

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