Traveler Introduces CPR for Data

What happens when a major technology player seems to disappear?

You didn’t read about it in the press, but Symantec recently bought Lexington, MA-based Revivio for an undisclosed amount, taking the provider of continuous data protection (CDP) solutions off the “available products” list. We will be interviewing Rob Soderbery, senior vice president of Symantec’s Storage Foundation Group, later this week and will do a follow-up column about what we learn about the fate of Revivio’s flagship product, Time Addressable Storage (TAS).

Only Gartner Group and IDC analysts were advised of the acquisition. Revivio customers have been informed through back channels, often via contacts with the Revivio sales force, which was laid off in its entirety just before Thanksgiving. Some customers, asking what to do next, have been checking in here, where many first learned about Revivio.

An IT manager for a major health care company wrote, “I don't know where this leaves the clients of Revivio going forward. It is my understanding that the 4.x version will not be supported (hardware and software) and that Symantec is [to] give some kind of incentive to those clients that want to go to version 5.x some time next year. I know all of the sales staff of Revivio were let go the week of November 13th. I have been told by [former Revivio salespersons] that we should not put any more production systems into the [Revivio solution].

“We had planned on purchasing two more cabinets (this would have increased us to four) in the next couple of months. This really hurts my DR plans and has [my company] concerned about what our next steps are. I will not be happy to go back to snapshots for stale data. This was what I was trying to get away from. Do I just turn the devices off and reclaim my drive space? I am not happy about this purchase.”

Addressing these concerns requires that I bring up another product that may have escaped general notice, because it, too, did not enjoy much press coverage when it was announced last month at Storage Networking World. I am referring to some innovative software from DataCore Software in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, called Traveler CPR (CPR stands for continuous protection and recovery).

Like many important innovations, Traveler functions straightforwardly, is elegant in design, and significant in its contribution to making stored data more available and better protected. Like Revivio, Traveler offers continuous data protection at the block level and leverages virtualization technology to make the underlayment—the disk where data is being written—more resilient and scalable.

Unlike Revivio’s TAS solution, however, Traveler isn’t bundled with hardware. You can run it on any spindles you want. Strictly speaking, Revivio’s TAS didn’t require specialty hardware either. When TAS was first introduced in the form of “slide ware” (a.k.a., a PowerPoint presentation) from wild-and-crazy CTO Mike Rowan, the company’s investors thought it would do better as a “complete solution,” so the software was wedded to hardware and sold as a bundle—an all-in-one appliance.

Some might say that the Revivio TAS solution was overpriced, often a signature of a smaller storage start-up that needs to sell a few expensive units rather than a lot of cheap ones in order to get off the ground. Maybe, if Symantec continues the product, this will change to a software-only offering that doesn’t cost a lot of money. Time will tell.

If it happens, Symantec’s TAS might just catch up with the folks at DataCore. Unlike, TAS, Traveler CPR has been developed as affordable software from a company that bought its future back from its venture capital backers a few years ago when the industry began to implode.

Fundamental Similarities

Conceptually, the product fundamentals are similar. TAS and Traveler both seek to compensate for deficits in the contemporary file system that place data at risk. With Traveler, once you set a policy for each volume that you want to protect—which amounts to using a “slider switch” interface for each volume that sets a “continuum period”, the amount of time that you want block transactions retained along side of your normal data—you simply launch the policy into operation on each volume. Change data is written to a target of your choice and a facility is provided to roll back data to any point in time following an outage or corruption event.

At Storage Networking World, I chatted with a beta tester of the product who was delighted with it. His storage infrastructure at a prominent New York hospital is entirely virtualized using DataCore’s SANSymphony software, so inserting Traveler into the mix was easy. That person reported that he had repeatedly returned his data to “pre-interruption states,” both in test mode and in real life, and that the product had performed as advertised.

Ziya Aral, chairman and chief technology officer for DataCore exclaimed, “What we have brought to the market has previously been the stuff of market-spin from vendors who either could not deliver true ‘continuous data protection’ or whose standalone appliances or software could not practically restore complex storage topologies. The first offering under the Traveler umbrella targets the CDP space, and because of the virtualization foundation inherent in Traveler, we believe this is the first, practical continuous data protection solution.

“Moreover for DataCore, Traveler represents an entirely new capability, whereby the core Traveler technology goes well beyond CDP. We feel confident that over time, Traveler will span and subsume the entire spectrum of requirements and functionality for data protection and data availability.”

So, to the folks sending me e-mail with their woes and misgivings about the Revivio acquisition, it may be time to put on your traveling shoes and pay DataCore a visit. From where I sit, DataCore is among the first to begin making virtualization something more than an enabling technology. CPR functionality is impressive and may have propelled the company to the forefront of a storage software space once dominated by players such as Veritas and IBM.

We can’t wait to test it out in our labs. Your input is welcomed at jtoigo@toigopartners.com.