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Asempra supports longer retention, new appliance

Asempra's Business Continuity Server 3.0 lets organizations keep more backup data on disk and is now available in a hardware appliance.

Windows backup and recovery specialist Asempra Inc. launched version 3.0 of its Business Continuity Server (BCS) this week, adding improved data deduplication to increase retention periods, greater support for Microsoft SQL databases, and a new appliance model.

BCS combines failover with continuous data protection (CDP) and virtualizes the data in the CDP repository so that the application server can be up and running on the BCS appliance before all the data is restored. Asempra claims that BCS can restore an instance of Exchange or SQL accessible to end users within seconds of failure, and individual data can be brought back as needed while the system restores the full database.

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Asempra CEO Gary Gysin said the latest BCS version has been given a performance boost thanks to newly tuned algorithms and improved data compression. Patrick Clancy, manager of infrastructure and technology for Quality Planning Co., says there is a clear difference in performance with version 3.0. "It used to take 10 to 15 seconds for the application to begin a restore," Clancy said. "Now the system is up within one second -- before I even switch over from the management screen."

The management screen is another improvement in 3.0. Previously, the management software for BCS had to be run on a separate server. "Just one less system to babysit and worry about," said Derek Kruger, IT and communications supervisor for the City of Safford, Ariz.

BCS 3.0 also allows for retention of up to six months of backups, depending on how frequently users' files change. (Asempra mainly sells to small companies with less than 10 TB of storage). Before, retention was limited to about two months. The capacity boost was made possible by a secondary layer of data deduplication beyond what Asempra already included with BCS. However, Asempra's dedupe is meant to keep the copy-on-write CDP repository manageable rather than create a net reduction of data on disk. The secondary layer lets customers retain baseline data snapshots for longer periods along with daily and continuous copies of new data.

The new version will also capture and re-run SQL log files during a restore to offer up-to-the-second protection of the application. BCS previously offered this for Exchange and Windows file systems, and introduced SQL snapshots in version 2.7. It also adds role-based access control and administration for cloud service providers and their customers.

Asempra is also offering BCS on an appliance -- called the Business Continuity Appliance (BCA) -- for about $30,000. BCA is an alternative to running BCS on a SAN, which proved too expensive and difficult to manage for many small and midsize organizations. The BCA includes about 4.5 TB of usable storage space and is suited for a 1 TB environment with approximately 8 servers without requiring networked storage to backup and recover. However, BCA lacks BCS's ability to do automated clustering and failover.

Asempra is among a growling group of vendors trying to revive CDP as a feature rather than a standalone product. However, Gysin said the company has fewer than 75 customers and is still trying to go upstream in a crowded market and a tough economy.

While Asempra users say they've been impressed with Asempra's customer service, features remain on their wish lists for the product, including support for Hyper-V and SQL Server 2008. I hope they'll add support for Hyper-V, both guests and hosts," Kruger said. "That's my biggest concern."

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Lauren Whitehouse said she expects Asempra to stick with the low end of the market for the foreseeable future. "The simple, instantaneous recovery of a volume or individual item has been packaged into a midmarket-consumable appliance that is sure to get attention from smaller organizations that have zero downtime tolerance, but can't always afford the infrastructure to get it," she said. "The Asempra BCS and BCA 3.0 solutions don't have a ton of new features, but they have the ones that count for the midmarket buyer."

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