FalconStor upgrades, repackages IPStor storage virtualization software

FalconStor's IPStor storage virtualization software will be split into three modules: NSS, CDP and VTL. The storage virtualization software will be sold in virtual appliances, offering cheap high availability for SMBs and remote offices.

FalconStor Software Inc. has upgraded its IPStor storage virtualization software and broken it into three parts: network storage server (NSS), continuous data protection (CDP) and virtual tape library (VTL).

None of the three applications are new, but FalconStor separated them to clear up confusion about what IPStor does and to create virtual appliance packages around the individual modules. All three modules -- the NSS, the CDP and the VTL – have been updated. Customers can purchase the full suite, or any combination of the modules.

In addition to the three modules, the IPStor line also contains host-based agents for quiescing database and messaging applications. Those agents have also been streamlined into a central client manager (CCM) for consolidated management and reporting. FalconStor also claims that all of its software offerings are compatible with any dual-core hardware, any major operating system and any server virtualization hypervisor. With the addition of virtual appliances, all three modules can be purchased as software-only downloads from FalconStor's website.

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"This means that users can now create their own data protection appliances using off-the-shelf components for under $10,000," said Peter Eicher, FalconStor product marketing manager. "It also reduces the product's delivery time for systems integrators and VARs."

New features

With the new release, FalconStor added features to each module. It added support to NSS for solid-state drives (SSD) and InfiniBand connectivity. NSS is used to manage and provision iSCSI and Fibre Channel SANs. SSDs managed under NSS can also be used with a pre-existing feature called Hot Zone, which moves data from slower disks to faster disks, either on demand or automatically according to workloads.

Thin provisioning on NSS has been extended to include thin local mirroring and thin distance replication for disaster recovery to save on disk space. Spreading thin technologies beyond the primary storage system is a budding trend among storage vendors. For instance, Compellent offers thin import of data from legacy systems onto its SAN, and NetApp's FlexVols and FlexClones offer thin mirroring and replication.

The NSS virtual appliance has resulted in a new joint offering from FalconStor and Chinese vendor H3C Technologies. The product from H3C and FalconStor allows virtual instances of NSS to be loaded onto each of the two controller chips in a redundant hardware box to create a low-end alternative to Tier 1 high availability systems, such as EMC's Symmetrix or Hitachi Data Systems' USP-V.

The CDP module is being repackaged by FalconStor into a bundled offering called CDP All-in-One (AiO). The system uses VMware's hardware-embedded virtual infrastructure 3i to mount the CDP server, as well as a standby host as virtual machines within the same piece of hardware. That allows customers to bring up a virtual bootable image of a failed server without standby hardware. Up to 16 individual servers can run within one instance of VMware 3i, but FalconStor said it is safest to use two servers so as not to overload the physical server's CPU and memory. "This is something for a small office or a branch office at a larger organization," Eicher said. "It's a way to eliminate tape restores and allow branch office servers to be recovered remotely for under $10,000."

FalconStor's VTL software can now be bundled with a backup media server running on a virtual machine within the same hardware appliance as the VTL. FalconStor claims this approach boosts the performance of VTL backups over a separate physical backup server, as well as a separate virtual backup server. "We found that eliminating the network hop between servers more than compensated for the performance penalty of hosting in software," Eicher said. FalconStor said its internal testing on the systems found that a separate physical backup server worked at a rate of 33 MBps, the separate virtual server at 30.47 MBps and the hosted backup client at 81 MBps. This package is also available starting at around $10,000.

Removing confusion

Lauren Whitehouse, an analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group, said the new virtual machine approach could save on power, cooling and management time for customers in the low end of the market, but could also prove beneficial to customers across the board by simplifying delivery of new products. "If FalconStor doesn't spend as much time doing QA, they can devote more resources to creating new features and developing new technology," she said.

Taneja Group analyst Christine Taylor agreed with Whitehouse, but said she's hoping to see even further integration within the new bundles from FalconStor in future releases. "For example, if they could integrate [data deduplication] with thin replication, they could add some WAN optimization features to these appliances as well," she said.

One reason for breaking IPStor into modules was simply marketing. There was confusion about IPStor's functionality and not all organizations need all the features FalconStor offers in the suite. "We want to clarify for end users' understanding what it is we really do," Eicher said.

Whitehouse said this lack of clarity may have hindered adoption for FalconStor's products, other than the VTL software it sells through OEM partners EMC, IBM, Sun Microsystems and others. "The jury's still out on things like CDP being a standalone product," she said. "But the VTL component is what they've become known for, and as the VTL partnerships start to take different courses for them, they are focusing on getting the same level of awareness for the other parts of their product."

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