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First Look: Overland's REO Backup Appliances

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Optional Multi-SitePAC software backs up remote REOs to a centralized REO.

@exb

At a Glance: Overland's REO Backup Appliances

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Company:
Overland Storage Inc.
Product:
REO
What it does:
Provides disk-to-disk virtual tape backup
Upside:
Simplifies the backup process and management of backup satellite locations
Downside:
Requires an appliance to be deployed at each remote site
Special Feature:
Multi-SitePAC performs centralized backup of REO appliances at multiple locations
Cost:
Starts at $4,949 (Multi-SitePAC software is $1,395 to $2,995)
@exe Disk may not yet match tape on a price-per-gigabit basis, but it's proving to be more reliable, faster and easier than tape backup. Yet "not many companies are offering disk-based backup products suitable for small businesses and remote offices," says Peter Gerr, senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), Milford, MA.

Overland Storage Inc., San Diego, has targeted small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and branch offices of larger firms with its REO backup appliances. The REO comes in three sizes (the 1TB REO 1000, the 2TB REO 4000 and the 9.6TB REO 9000), and combines a Linux server, controller and a RAID array to create an appliance that can be deployed without skilled IT people on site. REO's optional Multi-SitePAC software allows the organization to remotely mirror the data already backed up on REO appliances in satellite locations to a single, centralized REO, typically a REO 9000.

"With Multi-SitePAC, the system thinks it's simply backing up to a tape at headquarters," says Michael Kerman, Overland's VP and chief strategy officer.

The recommended REO deployment is an appropriately sized REO appliance at each satellite location and a REO 9000 at a central site to back up the backup appliances. But the remote backup capabilities of Multi-SitePAC raise a question: Why not just back up to the central REO and skip the baby REOs in various offices?

Kerman says it's about conserving bandwidth and availability. "What happens if you need to restore and the link is down?" he asks. With a local appliance, an organization can restore locally. Having the data backed up locally on disk or in the appliance's local cache makes it faster and easier to restore individual files, the most common request for restores, he says.

The San Diego County Credit Union, with 21 branch locations around the county, turned to Overland and its REO 1000 to "take the human element out of backup," says Sean Azhadi, the credit union's VP of technology. The firm previously relied on local branch staff to perform regular tape backups.

"Overland takes away all the mechanical problems of tape," says Azhadi. With the REO appliances and Multi-SitePAC, the credit union eliminated tape use at branches and now backs up local REOs to a central REO 9000 at headquarters.

To use REO and the Multi-SitePAC, an organization must deploy a conventional backup server and backup software from vendors such as Veritas or Legato. "The appliance will look for a backup system. We don't collect, catalog or move data. Backup systems do that," Kerman says. To the backup system, the disk-based REO looks just like a tape device.

ESG hasn't found any products directly competitive with the REO. Some backup software vendors provide remote replication and support disk-based backup, while replication vendors and disk array vendors offer capabilities like the REO. But none of these products are delivered with the ease of an appliance.

The only drawback Gerr finds to REO is at the low end of the line. "The REO 1000 doesn't have a dual controller, so the lack of high availability is a potential drawback," he says. But users tell Gerr they don't need high availability where they deploy the REO 1000. According to Gerr, the REO may not be the sexiest product, but it knows its job and does it well.

This was first published in May 2005

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