Remote Access Advances

Remote offices are no longer isolated outposts for data and file services

February 7, 2006

5 Min Read
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Asigra, Availl, and Riverbed Technology all unveiled products for remote offices today, following a spate of launches in January.

The news shows options for remote sites are improving, though technology remains a work in progress. It's also apparent that backup software and CDP vendors have their eyes increasingly on remote offices, with particular attention to home offices and laptop users. Here's a rundown:

  • Asigra, which always aimed its backup software at remote offices, has added support for operating systems, databases, and VMware in its Televaulting 6.0 product. (See Asigra Upgrades Televault and Asigra's Path Forks.) Televaulting will now perform hot backups for Oracle 10g, Microsoft SQL 8, and IBM DB2 databases, and will back up VMware ESX Server. Asigra also added an automated mass deployment feature that allows administrators to create a template of backup policies and send it out to multiple remote sites. Pricing begins at $11,250.

    Although Asigra is not a WAFS or WAN optimization product, Asigra executive VP Eran Farajun sees those technologies as competition because of Televaulting's concentration on remote offices. "We compete in a sense, because they are an alternative solution, he says. “If you don’t have any data on remote sites to back up, you don’t need backup software.”

  • Availl, which considers CDP a key piece of its WAFS strategy, upgraded its software to consolidate its CDP package for files and databases into one agent. (See (See Availl Adds Features and Availl Debuts CDP .) Availl prices its WAFS beginning at $3,995 for two servers and charges $995 per server for CDP.

    Availl previously required customers to install separate agents in the data center and on protected servers for file and database protection.

    The change is noteworthy. Unlike Riverbed, Tacit, and other WAFS or WAN optimizers, Availl replicates data from remote offices to data centers without caching data. And while Tacit and Riverbed ship on their own servers, Availl's software must install on customers' servers on remote offices. Hence, the ability to take up less space on the server is an advantage.That said, Availl is not aiming at smaller remote centers and individual users, as are some of its competitors. "Our market is important remote sites," says Availl VP of operations Craig Randall. "If you don't have a server, you're probably not an important office."

    Availl isn’t the only vendor aiming CDP away from headquarters. IBM’s CDP for Files has been targeting laptops as well as individual PCs and servers since it launched last August. IBM released an update in January. (See IBM Updates CDP and Laptop Venn & Zen.)

  • Riverbed launched two versions of its Steelhead WAN optimization appliance. (See Riverbed Chases Small Remotes.) The new, smaller wares include the Steelhead 100, which supports up to 25 optimized TCP connections and up to six users, and the Steelhead 200, which supports up to 75 TCP connections and up to 20 users. Both hold 36 GBytes of data. The Steelhead 100 has a list price $3,495; the Steelhead 200 is $4,995; and they are set to ship next week.

    Previous Riverbed appliances supported from 200 TCP connections and 80 GBytes of data to 2,200 TCP connections and 512 GBytes. And Riverbed CEO Jerry Kennelly says his company will continue to scale down with a product for laptop users, probably in 2007. "Every customer in the world is asking for it," he says.

    Competition includes Tacit Networks, which plans to begin shipping a WAFS appliance for offices with five or fewer users and is developing WAFS products for laptop users with technology acquired last month from Mobiliti. (See

    Tacit Buys Mobiliti, Goes Mini and Tacit Adds Mobiliti to Shopping List.) Orbital Data is also beta testing WAN acceleration software for home office and laptops and hopes to ship by mid-year.

All the announcements indicate IT and storage administrators seem to be warming to products that make it easier to service remote offices. Riverbed and Availl claim 500 customers apiece, mostly picked up last year. And Asigra claims thousands of users, primarily through service providers.What's more, WAFS and WAN optimization appears to be catching on among firms with workers collaborating on documents from multiple sites.

Ron Maxwell, IT manager of Reno, Nevada, architectural firm Blakely Johnson & Ghusn, is beta testing the Riverbed Steelhead appliance for home office use. The firm has larger Steelhead appliances in its Reno and Las Vegas offices.

"We have several people working from home, or who would like to work from home," Maxwell says. "Now they work at home in a limited capacity, but we have to do workarounds. They have to copy files to a USB drive, put them locally on a laptop, and bring them home. That creates problems. If somebody else works on that file while it's gone, they override the data."

Another user is also enjoying the advantages of new remote site wares. Alliance EngineeringIT manager Eddie Greene says Availl WAFS software has already made file sharing much easier for his Richmond, Va., firm's engineers assigned to remote offices in Baltimore, Md., and Tidewater, Va. Because several of the firm's engineers work on the same files at the same time, Greene used to store them centrally on a server in the Richmond office. For years, the companies sent tapes and disks overnight to engineers working outside the office. More recently, Alliance used a VPN to download files off the Richmond server.

Greene wasn't too happy with either scenario. "Before Availl, I set a VPN up and mapped remote users to a server in Richmond, and they would download from my server to their hard drive," he says. "That was very painful. They would get the file to their hard drive, delete if off the server so nobody else could get the file while they were working on it, do their work, then upload it back to the server. If they messed up the file while it was on their PC, we had to go back to the previous night's backup."Greene says now his engineers at all three offices can gain access to the files just as if they were working at headquarters. That allows them to work out of the office closest to their clients, instead of having all its engineers work out of Richmond and make overnight trips to clients' offices.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Asigra Inc.

  • Availl Inc.

  • Orbital Data Corp.

  • Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD)

  • Tacit Networks Inc.

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