Peer Software:Defying Storage Platform Barriers with DFSR+

CIO VendorJimmy Tam, CEO Born out of the need to seamlessly connect two distinct points, "Peer Software essentially bridges the gap between different storage systems and between different offices," remarks Jimmy Tam, CEO of Peer Software. Bringing distributed offices closer by negating the void between them is the core competency of Tam and his team of experts. In a nutshell—the company makes disparate and distributed storage filers handshake effectively.
Having been in business for more than 20 years, Peer Software has over ten thousand worldwide customers in nearly every industry. Since 1993, the company has focused on file synchronization and file replication technologies for enterprise customers. After doing a decade of one-way replication tasks for customers—backing up branch office file servers to a headquarters data center or distributing files from headquarters to branch locations—Peer Software experienced a change in customer requests. Along with the demand for bidirectional synchronization, they uncovered a need for file locking technology to prevent complications arising from replicated data sets in multiple locations.

Tam and his team took up this challenge and launched their first generation of file locking software in 2003. In essence, "by combining file synchronization with file locking, we created a globally distributed wide area file system," says Tam. However, as the data management landscape evolved, the file synchronization paradigm also changed. It increased in complexity because the branch offices had Windows file servers and the headquarters employed ever larger NetApp filers for storage. This marked the initial venture of Peer Software into the world of NetApp, and the birth of their Distributed File System Replication Plus (DFSR+) technology.
The "+" in DFSR+, Tam reveals, "signifies its extended capabilities such as file replication 'plus' locking for both Windows and NetApp"—a long sought after sil¬ver bullet in the NetApp ecosystem. In the present scenario's distributed nature of work, where sharing information across globally spread offices is critical, Peer's technology takes center stage by enabling Wide Area File Services (WAFS) with bidirectional synchronization and file locking to prevent data conflicts across mul¬tiple offices and platforms.

Today, DFSR+ is recognized as the foundation for the company's migration, backup, and file collaboration solutions. Depending on specific business challenges, the company offers a unique set of DFSR+ based products to meet client requirements.

At its core, Tam's company helps customers maximize the value of their investments in Windows and NetApp. This is one of the key reasons why NetApp considers Peer Software as their technology partner of choice when a need
for cross-platform synchronization arises. An example of this occurred during the introduction of NetApp's flagship storage operating system, Clustered Data ONTAP (cDOT), which no longer supported NetApp's Open Systems SnapVault (OSSV), a popular application for backing up a Windows fileserver to a NetApp filer. However, customers moving from a previous generation Data ONTAP 7-Mode system to cDOT with plans to back up their Windows fileservers to cDOT were not left out in the cold. "We were able to offer NetApp customers a high performance, OSSV alternative that enabled customers to upgrade with confidence," states Tam.

In addition, a large number of NetApp customers have multiple 7-Mode filers that they plan to upgrade to cDOT over time and not all at once. But the real catch is—when the upgrade be-gins—they end up with a mixed environment. "Another challenge we solve is that cDOT is not backward compatible with 7-Mode, you cannot replicate data from cDOT to 7-Mode natively," informs Tam. This is where Peer Software comes in again. "We are able to offer customers backward and forward compatibility between 7-Mode and cDOT," says Tam. Be it for backup, file distribution, or migration purposes, this cross-version compatibility enables companies to replicate information effortlessly. "This functionality is of tremendous value to many of our customers," he adds.

Technology and industry relationships are only the first part of the Peer story. Their customers represent brands recognized around the world as well as small and medium sized organizations that benefit from Peer's solutions. For instance, Populous, a glob¬ally recognized architecture firm, was challenged with efficiently sharing, updating and synchronizing CAD files with a company they were teamed with during the Melbourne Olympic Park redesign project. Populous deployed Peer Software's PeerLink to en¬able a WAFS implementation between the two companies which essentially created a secure, on premises private cloud environment where design files were seamlessly edited and shared across multiple locations.

Zurich Financial Services selected Peer Software for a different project. As the company has quite a few road warriors, backing up their laptop data and enabling synchronization be¬came critically important. PeerSync Backup was selected exactly for that purpose—automated data backup for their risk management consultants who are on the road. "Using PeerSync, we gave the customer capabilities like real-time synchronization with byte-level replication, role-based centralized management console, and daily reports," mentions Tam. The solution helped the client achieve efficient data backup and synchronization, while providing optimized remote WAN connections with bandwidth throttling and blackout scheduling.

NetApp has also called upon Peer Software to help make migrations as non-disruptive as possible. Oftentimes, when implementing any new storage system, the migration project that materializes tends to be disruptive in nature, resulting in downtimes between a couple hours to a couple of days, which is not acceptable for companies operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For TD Auto Finance, a subsidiary of rapidly expanding TD Bank, DFSR+ technology proved to be highly valuable. The client migrated a large and complex Windows file system with over 60
million files and 300 thou¬sand folders to NetApp by making use of the real-time replication feature present in DFSR+. "During the migration, any real time event happening on the Windows system was captured and simultaneously replicated over to a NetApp filer, assuring the customer that both the source and target systems were always in sync until cutover time," notes Tam. The nuances of DFSR+ made this complex migration possible with virtually no down¬time.

Peer develops and executes business and product strategies around the vision of a universal data platform that ensures data portability and interoperability across the cloud and multiple on-premises locations

In our hyper-competitive world, understanding the challenges of global organizations is a critical piece of the puzzle required to deliver appropriate solutions. Once Tam and his experienced team gain an understanding of customer needs, they create a lab environment that mirrors real life customer examples. Consequently, it is the norm at Peer Software to link up all their global offices with their own technology. "We use the technology just as our customers use it in distributed Windows and NetApp environments across our offices," Tam points out. Being multi-storage, multi-platform, multi office and taking a "software only" approach that layers on top of a customer's infrastructure without disrupting existing investments, gives Peer Software a clear competitive advantage.

Recognizing that enterprises use hundreds of different applications ranging from Microsoft Excel to AutoCAD and Revit, Tam is intent on supporting not only multiple storage platforms, but a diverse range of applications as well. Furthermore, since many companies work in a global environment, there is a limit on amount of available WAN bandwidth. Peer Software makes this limitation less of a hindrance by giving companies the tools and capabilities to manage and monitor the replication traffic, making their WAN efficient.

What's next for Peer?

With the amount of data increasing 20 to 30 percent year over year, the call for storage growth analytics and the tools to monitor and manage this growth is growing, and Peer plans to be a key player in this trend. Look for the company to also continue extending its proven DFSR+ technology into cloud and hybrid cloud solutions as well as enabling Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM) technologies that will increase storage efficiencies in a distributed environment. "Peer develops and executes business and product strategies around the vision of a universal data platform that ensures data portability and interoperability across the cloud and multiple on-premises locations," concluded Tam.

Peer Software

Centreville, VA

Jimmy Tam, CEO

Develops data management solutions addressing the unique challenges related to file backup, replication, and collaboration in a WAN environment.