UniTrends Unleashes Mass Replication

Are the masses ready for cheap, asynchronous, remote replication of entire server farms?

July 2, 2003

4 Min Read
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UniTrends Software Corp. says it's got a way for smaller companies to take advantage of server replication -- hitherto exclusively a high-end storage alternative (see Unitrends Launches DR Software).

The Myrtle Beach, S.C., company announced the availability of its Secure Data Sync software this week, claiming that it not only allows companies to back up their entire server farms, but that it also enables them to replicate all that data to a remote location for disaster protection.

While remote replication is nothing new, UniTrends says its software is cheaper than products that are already out there for disaster protection. Indeed, UniTrends is going after a growing number of smaller companies that are disenchanted with trucking tapes off to remote locations and are considering replication for the first time.

The customers are tired of carrying the tapes offsite,” says company founder and CTO Steve Schwartz. “With our software, the data is transported securely with encryption… They can do it over the Internet, a T1, T3, OC3, or whatever the organization has... This allows them to take a whole set of servers and mirror them to a master 2,000 miles away.”

The software is simply loaded onto UniTrends’ existing Data Protection Unit (DPU) appliance, which provides local disk- and tape-based backup, restore, and snapshot capabilities and works with over 20 different operating systems, according to the company. Each appliance can hook up to 10 servers.IT administrators can choose to send a constant flow of data to a remote site, or to simply send a load at set intervals, like once an hour or once a day, Schwartz says. The software synchronizes the data between the two sites whenever a replication is made.

On the downside, since the transfer of data between sites is asynchronous, meaning that operations at the first site don’t wait for a receipt from the second site before moving on to the next job, companies would lose the data in transit in the case of a disaster (see Data Protection for more information). But while acknowledging this drawback, Schwartz says that, depending on the setup, companies could narrow the loss of data to only about five minutes. If companies need more security than that, he says, they should shell out for a high-end, synchronous replication product from the likes of EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) or IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) (see IBM Pushes Shark's Copy Buttons).

Bottom line? Despite the risks, UniTrends multiserver replication is cheaper than most of the products out there, which target higher-end companies and have price-tags to match. At $5,000 per DPU appliance, or per 10 servers, the SDS software is definitely among the more affordable products on the market. It's worth noting, though, that the software only works in conjunction with UniTrends’ appliance, which can cost between $6,000 and $30,000, depending on the types of servers connected. The company says it’s working on a version of the software that can work independently of the appliance.

UniTrends, which was founded in 1987 and is privately held, has had five beta customers testing its new software and claims a number of prospective paying customers. The company says it already has about 70 customers using its DPU appliance and more than 10,000 customers using its initial CTAR (Compressing Tape Archiver) product. UniTrends’ new president, Jacques McCormack, says the company recently closed its first round of funding from Trelys Funds but declined to say how much it has received (see Unitrends Gets Funding, President).

Financial services and trading company Greystone, which has been testing the software since last fall, says it is planning to purchase it for most of its branch offices. “We’ve implemented a disaster recovery farm for a number of years,” says the manager of the company’s information technology division, Ned Howard. “We wanted to replicate information between our server farm here and our disaster site, but we needed something that wouldn’t break the bank.”The 165-employee-strong company is already using the software to incrementally send its data 40 miles over a point-to-point T1 to its disaster recovery site. “We’ll be installing these units into most of our branch offices,” Howard says. “This solves the problem of worrying about whether the tape backups are being run… Well, we don’t have to worry about that anymore.”

— Eugénie Larson, Reporter, Light Reading

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