Software utility house Imceda has developed a universal compression engine for databases which it claims can speed backups by a factor of five for a wide range of databases and applications.

The software, called LiteSpeed, will save network and tape capacity by creating a compressed database image on the application server, the company explained.

So far Imceda has focused on Microsoft SQL Server and Exchange, but the company's CEO Walter Scott said that it can now apply its compression engine to Oracle, DB2 and Microsoft Sharepoint as well, and to the upcoming version 5 of MySQL, thanks to the latter's support for stored procedures. The Oracle and DB2 versions will be formally announced next month.

"We have a universal engine," he said. "Tape backup does the compression in the wrong place - on the backup server or in the tape drive. Think about the application server - it still has to read the data for the backup."

The difference is that LiteSpeed creates a compressed version of the database on the application server. It can then either back this up itself or let enterprise backup software take over. Either way, Scott said that the smaller file not only occupies less space on tape, but it also takes less time to transfer over the network to the backup server.

"We don't see the extra processor load on the database server being a problem," he added. "The vast majority of database servers are I/O-bound, not CPU-bound. By reducing the I/O load, backup performance goes up. Plus Veritas, Legato and so on don't handle white space well, so where they get 50 percent compression, we get 80 percent."

He said that restores are faster too, as it's a smaller file to pull over the network. In addition, backups are encapsulated as executable files, so they can be restored without LiteSpeed being installed, and objects such as tables can be recovered without having to restore the entire backup.

The main competition for LiteSpeed is BMC's SQL-BackTrack, Scott said. He claimed that his software utility, though simpler, is also much cheaper, at £1,700 for SQL Server on a quad Xeon. Imceda already has several UK customers for the SQL Server version, including NTL, Threadneedle Asset and Blockbuster - plus Microsoft uses it internally.

"We sell to DBAs," he said. "The people who do backups think about files, not applications, so they don't think about database integrity. We just create a file that the enterprise backup then picks up."