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Users go for Simply Continuous cloud disaster recovery service

A new service that combines Data Domain data deduplication appliances with VMware virtual servers for cloud disaster recovery is turning some heads in the data storage market.

A new cloud disaster recovery startup that uses a combination of Data Domain Inc. data deduplication appliances and VMware Inc. virtual servers to offer application and data recovery services has already turned a few heads in the cloud storage market.

Simply Continuous, based in San Francisco, came out of stealth last November and officially launched its services last week.

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It has two offerings: Data Recovery Vault and AppAlive. Both involve the use of Data Domain's DD series appliances at the customer site, which replicate to Data Domain appliances at the Simply Continuous data center. AppAlive adds bare-metal restore of servers from virtual hot standbys stored by Simply Continuous, which can also perform the conversion of physical servers to virtual servers using VMware's vCenter Converter tool.

Simply Continuous charges according to physical data stored, so if a user's data is deduplicated from 20 TB to 1 TB by Data Domain's appliance, that user is charged to store 1 TB in the cloud. The service also comes with recovery-time service-level agreements (SLAs) in which customers can be reimbursed if recoveries don't happen in an agreed-upon time frame.

Vocera: looking for affordable disaster recovery

Vocera Communications Inc., which makes wireless communications devices for healthcare practitioners, first signed on with Simply Continuous about a year ago, and began using the service with production data in September, according to Amy Karabinas, vice president of engineering.

Karabinas said she originally deployed Data Domain while trying to solve a backup problem -- getting rid of tape. "We have added teams in the U.K. and India in the last couple of years, and we just don't have a backup window anymore," she said. "And it took so long to do restores from tape that people would work around it by the time we got the data back anyway."

Data Domain's ability to replicate to a secondary site was also interesting, but Karabinas said the company, which stores 83 TB of data storage capacity in its data center, had looked into multi-site disaster recovery on its own before, and found it cost-prohibitive. "We need uptime and availability 24/7 for healthcare customers, and the ability to survive a disaster given we're located in the Bay Area," Karabinas said. Vocera also looked into storing virtual copies of its production servers at an AT&T collocation facility in Sacramento, but "the cost was completely prohibitive, because they charged by [data storage] space and number of rack units [our servers would take up]," she said. "It was so far out of reach I didn't even price out the whole thing."

At the time, Simply Continuous was still in stealth, but Data Domain recommended its service to Vocera. Karabinas said Vocera has seen its data compressed 79.8% when replicating through Data Domain; in the last seven days, it's written 3.5 TB of data at Simply Continuous's data center.

While Vocera is happy with the one-stop shop for data deduplication and disaster recovery, like many early adopters of cloud-based services, Karabinas said she'd like to see more integration between service providers handling different parts of the infrastructure. "We'd like to see Simply Continuous in a tighter partnership with our Web and e-commerce hosting provider, which is already collocated with them."

Scout Labs: Enticed by data recovery guarantee, service-level agreement

Scout Labs makes software that tracks social media "buzz" around major companies' brands, including Coca-Cola, Netflix, Jamba Juice and Motorola. It has approximately 20 TB of production data on Sun Microsystems commodity servers linked by an open-source distributed file system, HDFS.

Simply Continuous was recommended to Scout Labs by a local VAR, and director of operations Steve Green said the service-level agreement was a key factor in deploying Simply Continuous over competitors in cloud disaster recovery and other cloud storage services like Amazon's S3.

"I tested S3 purely for backup purposes, but getting the data from our site to their site was a pain -- it would've taken days to send all our data and there was no guarantee we'd get it back," he said. "If our data was lost or corrupted, we'd have no recourse with Amazon."

Getting Data Domain's appliance to work with Scout Labs' environment was a little bit tricky. "Data Domain actually said that they'd never seen or worked with the number of small files that we had," Green said. Scout Labs ran into a threshold in Data Domain's software that had to be solved with a software update. "We went to Simply Continuous and the problem was rectified."

Having that one throat to choke was also important when choosing Simply Continuous, said Scout Labs CTO Jochen Frey. "The most important thing for us is not to tie people up -- we have to be highly efficient, and we're looking for infrastructure that doesn't need daily or weekly routines from us."

Since he's used to working with command-line interfaces (CLI) and scripts in the otherwise customized, open-source environment, Green said he's looking for Data Domain and Simply Continuous to refine their monitoring portals. "I can get a lot of [Data Domain] system stats on a CLI, but I'd like to see deeper analytics," he said, such as the total number of files and blocks on the system. Green said it would also be ideal if the Simply Continuous Web monitoring portal also contained information on the Data Domain appliance. "Right now, Data Domain has its own portal."

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