Startup proposes time-stamp backups

Let’s face it: The data we save to storage is ephemeral. At any time that data content can permanently change, often without warning and possibly without intention. In many ways, storing data to magnetic media is like writing in the sand -- easy to do but very short-lived.

In fact, the very concept of backup derives from the awareness of that fugacity. With backups we are making copies of data at distinct intervals. It is the insurance we take so we can bring back data to its original state if and when we discover an archive was unintentionally changed.

Call that copy a snapshot, a replica, a business continuance volume, etc.; but the fact remains that it is only a single still image of our business data. Try as we may, recording all of our business transactions and processes is difficult, and when facing a data corruption problem we end up choosing the lesser evil from a range of equally inadequate data shots.

Well that’s the past. Today we have a new concept -- TAS, which stands for time addressable storage. This new approach to data recovery adds the dimension of time to computer records.

I’ll explain how that works in a second, but first let me add that you could have seen TAS in action at SNW (Storage Networking World) in Orlando, courtesy of Revivio, a startup storage vendor that has developed TimeFrame, a reasonably inexpensive appliance that promises instant restore of your data, literally from any point in time.

The general idea behind TimeFrame is to record volume changes and to associate a time stamp to that record. Think of TimeFrame as a camcorder that captures every change happening to your data.

For instance, in a typical SAN (storage area network) setting, TimeFrame will intercept and separately record all block writes and the time when they occurred -- creating what essentially is a chronology of volume changes.

With that in mind, understanding how TimeFrame simplifies recovery of a damaged volume is intuitive. Administrators can quickly roll back a damaged volume to any point in time as easily as they can push the rewind button on a camcorder.

It’s important to understand how Revivio's approach to instant and granular data recovery is different from approaches like StorageTek’s EchoView. Unlike EchoView, TimeFrame works outside of application servers and storage devices; hence, that stealth recording activity happens without affecting the performance of the involved servers and storage.

In addition, the TimeFrame appliance contains no storage media and will store the time-sensitive volume data on whatever storage you make available. Considering that the appliance only records changes, the additional space needed for data recovery should be moderate, or proportionate to the amount of changes and the fall-back window for each volume.

Also moderate is the sticker price. Revivio suggests $50,000 per appliance, which doesn’t seem a bad price to pay to take a complete picture of your business data. I’ll try to hold my enthusiasm until I can try TimeFrame in my lab.

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