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DR a top priority for users

Users at the Storage Decisions show in Chicago this week are talking about DR and replication strategies, and specifically about which technologies they are evaluating and why.

CHICAGO -- Disaster recovery (DR) was the topic of the day at the Storage Decisions conference Wednesday, with users swapping ideas on which technologies they are evaluating and why.

Bob Caron, enterprise storage manager with Grainger Inc., a retail distribution company, is building a DR site that the company hopes will be up and running this summer.

"We had been contracted with IBM for disaster recovery services, but for control and expense purposes we decided to do it on our own … with the sensitivity of data these days, we decided to keep it in our hands and it became cost-prohibitive to do immediate failover with IBM," Caron said.

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Grainger is an EMC Corp. shop with about 80 terabytes of storage and will probably use EMC's synchronous remote data facility software, known as SRDF, for replication between its primary and DR sites.

W. Curtis Preston, vice president of services at GlassHouse Technologies Inc., noted that customers eventually get to a point where it is cheaper to roll their own DR. "That's why you see companies like EVault, LiveVault and others selling their software as well as providing services," he said.

Another organization building out a DR site is the University of Western Ontario. It has the added complexity of managing DR within a heterogeneous environment. The university has mainly IBM FAStT arrays at its primary site, but also Sun Microsystems Inc. and Nexsan Technologies Ltd. disk, among other boxes. "We need to find a way to grab hold of all the data from these systems and send it over to the DR site in one go," said Jon Hickmott, senior Unix and database administrator at the university.

Initially, they looked at mirroring for the IBM FAStT 700, but it was too expensive. "They quoted us $100,000 just for the mirroring software," Hickmott said. Now he is evaluating virtualization products from Network Appliance Inc., FalconStor Software Inc. and Zetta Systems Inc.

Yet another company building out a second site for DR purposes -- this one in the transportation sector -- told that it's checking out FalconStor's fabric-based product. "The FalconStor cost model is too much for the amount of data we are moving, but if the price comes down we will get it," said the company official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The firm would be sending 200 GB of data a day. He said that adding "another layer of complexity into the network" could also be problematic with this approach.

Security popped up in one session as a component of DR, with most users admitting that they don't encrypt their data at this point. A couple of the stumbling blocks to implementing encryption appeared to be key management and also how much of a performance hit is introduced.

This sparked off a conversation about Iron Mountain, Inc. and the recent debacle over lost backup tapes. One user noted how important it is to keep checking up on what the off-site backup companies are doing for you. "I went around there to see where they store our tapes and was stunned to find they were surrounded by acres of paper," this user said.

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