U.K. provider of backup and disaster recovery services, Core Consultancy, shares its storage with its customers, which is both a blessing and curse.It has to be accountable to its customers in all its storage decisions both in terms of reliability and in terms of cost; but it also gets to stay on the cutting of new technologies, recently adding a combination of Asigra Inc.'s Televaulting 6.0 software and OnStor Inc.'s Bobcat NAS head.
According to Sharad Saggar, managing director of Core Consultancy, the biggest advantage for the OnStor/Asigra combination was cost.
"NetApp's expense was so significant, we'd have had to change our pricing model and charge the difference back to our customers to pay for it," Saggar said. "There's no way our customers would swallow such a huge hike in our fees."
Saggar said he also appreciated that OnStor is disk agnostic, allowing him to stick with the Lapistor offering. "We'd bought a lot from [Lapistor] already," he said. Moreover, being able to choose disks helped further with the cost.
"We've found their disk very reliable and at a good price on the open market," Saggar said.
The company had been using a little over 2 TB of DAS with Dell servers along with Veritas' NetBackup software to manage data for its approximately 35 clients at a main data center in London, as well as another secondary site 50 miles away. That was up until last spring when licensing and scalability issues with both hardware and software grew too much, according to Saggar.
As far as NetBackup was concerned, the problem was needing a license for every server, and needing a separate server for each customer's applications. "With between 30 and 40 servers for each customer, it got overwhelming very quickly," Saggar said. "With Asigra and OnStor, we could build one big virtual vault and add customers to that."
Saggar said he heard of Asigra from a U.K. company called InTechnology Plc, whose services Core Consultancy used to resell. InTechnology, he said, had 2 petabytes of data under protection with Asigra.
Asigra's Televaulting software was a bit expensive for his taste, some US$35,000., "but the reliability and availability they give us is key," he said. "In the U.K. no one's heard of them, but the customers really don't care as long as the functionality's there."
In the course of picking new backup software, Saggar also looked at LiveVault Corp. but found he preferred Asigra's Televaulting software because it works without agents on each server and can do bare-metal restores across a wide range of platforms.
"It was a while ago that we looked at LiveVault," Saggar conceded. "It may have changed now." LiveVault confirmed that it sells an agent-based product and does not perform bare-metal restores.
Overall, Saggar said, the purchase has been worth it, but he had his own challenges in its first implementation, since he is both the first customer to implement Asigra and OnStor together as a package and the first customer to migrate to Asigra 6.0 in U.K.
"There were some of what I call 'teething issues,' " he said. "These companies do quite a bit of testing of their products, but it's under lab conditions. Nothing really can simulate pouring lots and lots of customer data into the system in the real world."
The fact that he was performing a hardware and software upgrade at the same time and attempting to migrate data for customers who had signed high-availability service level agreements with his company, didn't help much, Saggar said.
"We had some write delay errors with OnStor at first," he said. "It got resolved quickly."
The migration from Asigra's Televaulting 5.0 to version 6.0 was more painful, requiring Saggar and his staff to export data client by client, then upgrade the software, then reimport the data, a process which took several months -- made longer by the fact that Core Consultancy had to make special availability arrangements with customers and then perform the migrations during off hours and weekends.
All that, and Saggar swears Core Consultancy didn't get a break in pricing for being a guinea pig. "Though Lapistor did help us out a bit by loaning us some equipment for use in the migration".
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Meanwhile, Asigra and OnStor announced last week that they had completed interoperability testing and were offering joint support for one another's products. According to Eran Farajun, executive vice president of Asigra, OnStor's NAS gateways are a good fit with the Televaulting software, particularly for version N+1, a high-availability configuration that includes Asigra software on a set of clustered servers, since the NAS head allows multiple servers to access a file system simultaneously.
Both vendors' products are also hardware agnostic, Farajun said. "It makes sense for them to work together."
Farajun said the two products had undergone interoperability testing and stressed the importance of mutual technical support for joint customers. However, he admitted there was no real technological integration -- no real difference between purchasing the products together from Asigra or OnStor, or purchasing them separately, as Core consultancy did.
"These are products that do frequently meet in the channel," he said.