Black box for the enterprise protects data

Airplane style black box to protect crucial data from natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

A new disaster recovery vendor is taking the concept of an airplane black box and adapting it to the enterprise to create a new way of protecting crucial data from natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

Axxana, an Israeli company whose CTO is a former IBM master inventor, says it has embedded flash memory into a 400-pound box designed to survive fires reaching 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit, earthquakes, 30 feet of water, 500 pounds of pressure -- essentially anything short of a nuclear bomb. Fitted with a wireless modem, antennas and batteries, the box can transmit data wirelessly after disasters even if it cannot be physically accessed.

"I think it's very telling of the times we live in that we would consider products of this type," says analyst Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group. Taneja says a business in New Orleans worried about hurricanes or one in Manhattan wary of another terrorist attack might certainly be interested in Axxana's technology, which is called the Phoenix -- like the mythical bird that rises from the ashes.

Axxana is exiting stealth mode on Monday, and says it will deliver its product early next year.

Just as important as the black box is Axxana's method of bridging the gap between synchronous and asynchronous mirroring, developed by CTO Alex Winokur, who was named a "master inventor" while with IBM and developed technology for storage start-up XIV, which was purchased by IBM this year.

Axxana CEO Eli Efrat explains that with asynchronous mirroring a business can replicate data to another site no matter how far away, but some bits of data could be lost. With synchronous mirroring, no data is lost but you're limited by distance to about 45 miles, application performance can be affected, and it may cost more than some enterprises are willing to spend.

Efrat likens Axxana's approach to bypassing the speed of light, arguing that Phoenix essentially provides synchronous mirroring at any distance. Say you want to replicate data from New York to Los Angeles. An Axxana customer would use asynchronous mirroring just as usual, but those lost bits of data that don't make the trip from New York to Los Angeles are stored on the Phoenix black box, the company says.

"The box doesn't retain a complete copy of the data, it only retains what's needed between asynchronous and what would be synchronous" Efrat explains.

The idea may seem simple, but Efrat says it wasn't possible before flash memory became mainstream. Obviously, the black box needs storage resistant to shocks and sudden movement. Axxana is using a 73GB flash drive from STEC, which Efrat says makes the only 3.5-inch form factor flash memory that would be resilient enough and fast enough.

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