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Real estate firm picks Xiotech for DR

Newmark hooked up a DR site in New Jersey using Xiotech's TimeScale replication product, claiming EMC offers no more "bang for the extra bucks."

With headquarters across the street from Grand Central Station, one of the most famous landmarks in New York City, Newmark & Company Real Estate Inc., decided there was no time like the present to upgrade its disaster recovery (DR) operation.

"There are national guards with rifles and bomb-sniffing dogs at Grand Central every day -- it changes the way you look at things," said Sandy Jacolow, chief technology officer of Newmark. A round-the-clock operation that allows for little to no downtime for maintenance was another incentive for Newmark, an 850-person company, to get its DR plan in order.

Newmark was renting storage space in a building in Jersey City, N.J., that connected to its servers in New York over T1 lines. Whenever a server failed, it had to rebuild that machine and then restore data from tape. "We had limited resources to restore files and applications, and it was not a full business continuity plan," Jacolow said. During the electricity blackout of 2003, for example, Newmark was unable to work as Jersey City had no power or backup generators.

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Companies need to be prepared for all types of disasters: national, regional and local, he said. "The most important is local scenarios like the Verizon lines to your building going down … In bigger disasters, everyone is taken out, including your competition."

To improve Newmark's chances of keeping its operations going during a disaster, the company purchased two Xiotech Corp. 3D storage arrays: one for its headquarters and another for its new DR facility at AT&T Corp.'s data center in Secaucus, N.J. "AT&T has 48 hours of diesel fuel for backup generators at this site -- it's a major telecom center for them," according to Jacolow.

Newmark connects its two arrays together using Xiotech's TimeScale replication product, a rebranded version of Kashya Inc.'s KBX5000 data replication appliance. It replicates about 4 terabytes of data.

Dell servers are connected to the SAN and can be booted off it from anywhere; all drives are hot swappable and configured with RAID-15 (RAID-5 plus mirroring) for as much redundancy as possible. Newmark can now take snapshots at any given time and restore its data in a matter of minutes instead of days, the company said.

Shutting down its primary site, flipping over to the DR site and then bringing the primary backup took less than two hours, Jacolow said.

As part of the DR implementation, Newmark purchased a new tape library from Quantum Corp., which hangs off the back of its secondary site in Secaucus N.J. Vital Records Inc. transports tapes offsite for a third level of data protection.

Xiotech vs. EMC

Newmark hired Gotham Technologies LLC to help it select a DR vendor. The company went through a six-month evaluation process and eventually whittled its list of choices down to EMC Corp. and Xiotech.

With Xiotech, Newmark discovered it could get pretty much the same functionality for a fraction of the cost that EMC was charging. "You're not getting any extra bang for your buck. You're paying for the name and reputation, and that's not always what it's cracked up to be," Jacolow said.

Cost wasn't the only factor though. The ability to replicate boot drives was a key technology advantage the Xiotech product offered over EMC, Jacolow said. His one criticism of Xiotech's TimeScale device was the lack of monitoring tools it offers. "I'd like to have more executive reports -- a dashboard on replication so that I can see exactly what's going on at any instance would be nice," he said

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