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WAN optimization moves virtualized DR over the goal line

Replication was infeasible with a 10 Mbps WAN connection, and WAN optimization hardware looked like it would break the bank; that's when a NetEx virtual appliance entered the picture.

With WAN optimization software from Network Executive Software (NetEx), one VMware shop was able to overcome the underpowered Ethernet link standing in the way of replicating its backups off-site and achieving its virtual disaster recovery goals.

Advertising and marketing agency Rhea + Kaiser had 20 virtual servers it wanted to replicate to a secondary site, but the firm's 10 Mbps Ethernet WAN link made it all but impossible.

"It wasn't making our [backup] window," said Faisal Farooqui, the manager of business technology. The initial replication of one 30 GB server image took a week to complete, he said. Even seeding the disaster recovery (DR) site with the initial backup and then sending incremental changes was a bust. "There was just too much latency in our connection. It would fail."

The firm's primary site consists of three Dell PowerEdge R610 physical hosts attached to an EMC Celerra NAS array and a Dell Equallogic PS4000x iSCSI SAN. At a DR site, the company has a secondary cluster of Dell PowerEdge 2970s directly attached to a 2.5 TB Dell MD1000 storage device. Veeam Backup and Replication makes backups of virtual machine (VM) images, and with the release of version 4, Farooqui hoped to use its replication features to send data off-site for disaster recovery.

Pricing out WAN optimization
Stymied by the WAN latency, the firm began exploring WAN optimization devices and evaluating products from Blue Coat Systems Inc. and Riverbed Technology Inc. The firm got a quote from Riverbed for a hardware-based SteelHead 1050H that came to about $40,000, which includes $22,000 for each appliance at the end of the wire and $4000 for a year's support.

"That wasn't in our budget," Farooqui said. "I just didn't expect it to be that much."

From Veeam's forums, Farooqui learned of Veeam joint marketing partner NetEx, which offers a VMware-based virtual appliance for its HyperIP TCP/IP acceleration software. Farooqui said that software was priced at less than $10,000. "That was less than the cost of support for Riverbed for three years," he said. And the concept of a virtual appliance also appealed to him on principle: "Anything I can virtualize, I will. It makes it easier to manage and upgrade."

Most importantly, after installing HyperIP, replicating initial VM backups to the DR site went from taking a week to taking about an hour, he said.

With the better-known Riverbed brand name, though, comes some features Farooqui said he'd like to see matched by NetEx. Riverbed offers network performance reporting, for example, through its Cascade business unit dedicated to offering networking performance monitoring software. "I would like to be proactively emailed reports about network performance [with NetEx]," Farooqui said.

Currently, HyperIP offers an SNMP MIB for monitoring performance, a spokesperson said, but can't email out reports -- although the spokesperson did not rule it out for future releases.

HyperIP's reporting issues aside, "it's made a big difference in what we do," Farooqui said. "We can run live servers at our DR site, now that the bandwidth bottleneck has been removed."

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for Write to her at

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