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EMC unveils real-time data replication over thousands of miles

Lucas Mearian, Computerworld | May 10, 2011
LAS VEGAS - EMC announced at its annual trade show today an upgrade to its data-caching appliance that allows storage arrays to replicate data between applications over distances greater than 2,000 miles.

"We saw that if our VMAX was to fail, we needed some other type of redundancy," said Eric Sato, manager of server administration at CTCA. Sato said his company is considering using VPLEX Geo and Global eventually to replicate data to its brand new secondary data center in Madison, Wis.

CTCA hired consulting firm Ahead to help it with the VPLEX implementation. Eric Kaplan, president of technical consulting at Ahead, said CTCA is not atypical of many businesses that are looking for greater resiliency.

Limitations caused by the speed of light typically cause applications to time out when data is being replicated between machines over distance. This means that if a machine sending data does not receive confirmation from the recipient machine within a certain span of time, it considers the computer operation failed.

Typically, vendors have solved this problem by sending data asynchronously over distances, so that a response message is not required from the recipient machine. Asynchronous data replication, however, means that if a disaster occurs, causing a primary data center to go down, the data in transit to the secondary data center is lost. In order to share data in real-time, synchronous replication is required.

EMC's VPLEX appliance basically cheats speed of light limitations by sending across a light-weight code with the data to invalidate the requirement for a fast response between servers in multiple sites - something EMC calls "cache coherency."

The appliance rests between the storage network switches and the storage array.

Gallagher said the VPLEX appliances can scale from two to eight nodes or locations. When it comes to clustered applications, such as Oracle RAC or VMware HA, however, replication distances are limited to 100 kilometers, he said.

In addition to the new functionality, EMC also reduced the size of the appliance by using smaller rack-mounted boxes with more powerful Intel multi-core processors, PCI Gen 2 cards for faster throughput, and new 10 Gigabit Ethernet WAN interfaces for faster communications between clusters.

EMC is charging $100,000 for an appliance with 1TB of capacity on it, but Gallagher said street prices would vary depending on the size of the implementation.

In related news, EMC also announced has added support for native Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) connectivity on its high-end Symmetrix VMAX array.

EMC competitor NetApp added FCoE capability to its high-end Fabric-Attached Storage (FAS) arrays last year through an upgrade in its Data ONTAP 8 operating system. Around the same time, EMC also added FCoE to its midrange line of VNX SAN/NAS arrays.


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