On behalf of Darwin's, Network Computing invited leading data-protection product and service vendors to bid on the job. Of the 40 companies contacted, ranging from disk and tape hardware vendors to backup software vendors to disaster-recovery facilities, only six responded: Computer Associates International, Fujitsu Softek, Hewlett-Packard, Quantum Corp., Tacit Networks and Veritas Software. Of the many that opted out, a few offered reasons for doing so, including a lack of available resources to complete a response, fear that a "proprietary solution" would be rejected and product-release dates incompatible with the RFP deadline. Most vendors, unfortunately, offered no explanation at all, or initially indicated an interest to participate but never delivered a response (for a look at SunGard Availability Services and LiveVault Corp., see "Replication at Your Service,").
Of those that came through, Tacit Networks had to be disqualified because its response provided no mechanism for replicating databases. Indeed, its system applies only to file replication. Be that as it may, we've included a summary of Tacit's offering because it provides a unique and potentially powerful capability for those seeking file-system-based data replication (see "Tacit's Approach? We Approve,".
The responses covered three categories of data-replication approaches: replication at the hardware level (HP and Quantum), replication via host software (CA, HP, Fujitsu Softek, Quantum and Veritas) and replication in a network (Tacit). One method that was not examined was replication within the application. Oracle is steadily building out its database-replication capabilities--with Parallel Server, for example--but we think it's testimony to the immaturity of the database vendor's approach that the subject of database parallelism didn't even come up in the proposals received. Or, it may reflect a common-sense view of replication: Making copies at the application layer would likely require one replication product per application, whereas performing copy operations at the storage layer can be done by a single set of tools.
In the end, our analysis of the proposals provided a matrix of options rather than a "one size fits all" solution. If you're looking to answer one of the most difficult and important IT questions of the day--how to protect one of your company's most irreplaceable assets, its data--we recommend you gather as many proposals as possible to facilitate decision-making. While getting a number of quotes is always important, of course, the responses we received illustrated the wide range of possibilities and price ranges (see the complete responses).
This time out, Fujitsu Softek gets our Editor's Choice nod. No doubt, every solution provided (except Tacit's) could have met the needs of Darwin's. But Softek (and its fellow software-company contenders) avoided the forklift upgrade to existing infrastructure right off the bat.
Softek's straightforward proposal was a welcome relief from the rivals' somewhat obfuscated responses. It proposed a three-phase approach to solving the replication problem Darwin's faced.
Phase 1 required the licensing of Softek's Replicator product for servers at headquarters, plus the purchase of 40 TB to 50 TB of direct-attached storage and servers to act as replication targets. Nice thing about the Softek bid was that it left the choice of servers and storage open: Expensive Tier 1, inexpensive Tier 2 or just about anything Darwin's might have locked away in its closets would do the trick. Softek also proposed to preserve Darwin's existing investment in high-end tape libraries for use in disaster recovery until a fully functional DR site could be established and made operational in Phase 2. In short, a centralized local replication with dump to tape was specified in the short term.