NetEx, F5 Face Up to DR Reality

WAN optimization specialists adapt to replication issues of disaster recovery UPDATED 10:50 AM

October 31, 2007

4 Min Read
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WAN optimization vendors F5 and NetEx are cranking up their disaster recovery strategies.

NetEx yesterday unveiled an upgrade for its WAN optimization solution, which it claims can push data replication speeds through the roof in the event of an emergency. This followed EMC's recent announcement that it would resell F5's WANJet Appliance in conjunction with its SRDF replication software.

StorageTek spinoff NetEx positions itself as an alternative to traditional WAN optimization products from the likes of Riverbed, Silver Peak, and F5, touting its HyperIP offering as a software-based way to boost backups.

HyperIP uses a proprietary transport protocol that runs over UDP (User Datagram Protocol), which NetEx says compensates for the latencies involved in typical TCP/IP transmissions. As a result, the appliances, which run on off-the-shelf Intel-based hardware, can alleviate TCP/IP degradation associated with long-distance data transfer, according to the vendor.

Yesterday NetEx added a feature called Recovery on Demand to HyperIP, comprising a software key that gives existing users access to up to 622 Mbit/s of bandwidth for up to 10 days free of charge, according to Bob MacIntyre, vice president of business development at NetEx."The major differentiator between us and the other WAN optimization vendors is that we're software-based, whereas they have specific hardware models running at specific performance levels," says MacIntyre. "This means that we have got the ability to scale up to 622 Mbit/s without a forklift upgrade."

Of course, for the solution to work, a user must have access to a WAN link capable of supporting the higher data rate. The point is that all that bandwidth need not come into play until it's necessary.

In addition to Recovery on Demand, NetEx also unveiled a similar offering called 'Fire Drill' this week. "It's really the same thing, except that Fire Drill is planned and Recovery on Demand is not," says MacIntyre, explaining that both services are available free of charge to existing NetEx users.

Whereas Recovery on Demand is used in real crisis scenarios, Fire Drill lets users test their disaster recovery plans over a 10-day period, according to the exec.

This message will hit home to smaller firms that are only just getting their disaster recovery plans in place, according to IDC analyst Rick Villars. "Disaster recovery and replication for existing environments is an ongoing challenge, particularly in more modest enterprises that are just now realizing that they have to have a plan in place" he says.In addition to bona fide disasters, Villars told Byte and Switch, users are likely to consider Recovery on Demand to deal with other temporary upheavals, such as M&A, a data center move, or expansion into a new geographic region.

Other vendors are nonetheless uneasy about the approach taken by NetEx.

"Were not doing bandwidth on demand like that," says Jeff Aaron, director of product marketing at Silver Peak, explaining that the vendor charges a one-off fee for its NX Series appliances according to their maximum bandwidth.

"We don’t do software licenses of any kind because it just adds to the complexity for users," he adds.

Overall, the software licensing model appears to be the more expensive option for users.Retail list price for NetEx's HyperIP offerings, for example, starts at $20,759 for an appliance capable of delivering 3 Mbit/s of bandwidth, rising to $182,134 for 622 Mbit/s. This price includes usage licensing for the first twelve months.

One year after purchase, customers pay an annual license fee, which is around 18 percent of the initial price, and service is free, according to MacIntyre.

In contrast, one-off pricing for Silver Peak's WAN optimization hardware starts at $9,995 for the 2 Mbit/s NX-2500, rising to $129,995 for the high-end 500 Mbit/s NX-8500.

One vendor that, like NetEx, does rely on software licenses and keys, is F5. The vendor told Byte and Switch that, although it also offers users a free bandwidth upgrade in the event of an emergency, this service is very seldom used.

"People who do their business correctly understand that they have peak capacity needs," says Joe Hicks, product manager for F5's WANJet offerings. "You shouldn't have to call a vendor."In the event of a crisis, F5 will offer users a free 30-day bandwidth upgrade, although Hicks can recall very few situations when the vendor has been called on to actually deliver this. "If you have this problem, we will certainly do it, but it's not good practice for the customer."

Like F5, NetEx is also involved in EMC's Select program, clinching a deal to provide WAN optimization for the vendor's SRDF technology a couple of years ago.

If NetEx's MacIntyre is worried about F5 stepping on his toes, he is not showing it. "EMC, whenever they have something that is important, always have multiple vendors to drive the market," he says. "It's something that they did with Fibre Channel, and it's something that they are going to do with WAN optimization as well."Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV)

  • IDC

  • Network Executive Software Inc. (NetEx)

  • Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD)

  • Silver Peak Systems Inc.

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