Virtualization was the sexiest of storage buzzwords when FalconStor came out of the startup gate a couple of years ago. The technology fueled an endless stream of announcements from the company ever since, covering everything from new product features to frequent new partnership deals. But something has changed recently, according to spokesman Herman Chin -- the company is de-emphasizing virtualization and focusing instead on the benefits virtualization can provide.
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What's behind the change in emphasis?
Galen Schreck, an analyst with Forrester Research, while impressed with the capabilities of FalconStor, says virtualization has turned into a concept that often frightens customers away. FalconStor, he notes, is trying to profit from one of the fundamental conundrums of storage management. "Administrators are faced with a dilemma, he says. "On the one hand you worry about low storage utilization and the inability to migrate storage from one device to another while keeping your applications running."
Virtualization, which FalconStor's products can provide, surmount that difficulty but, says Schreck, for FalconStor as for other virtualization vendors, getting acceptance from users may be difficult. "The central problem is that once you virtualize your storage, it is very difficult to go back." That means companies will have to bet their data on the future of virtualization in general and the longevity of FalconStor in particular. In short, it may remain a tough sell.
Arun Taneja, analyst at Enterprise Storage Group, agrees that virtualization has been tough to sell. FalconStor has "been on an incredible product enhancement plan but they have suffered the same bruises others did in exploring why customers weren't keen on virtualization, per se," he says.
In an interview, cofounder Huai explained that despite the many changes, the focus of the company has remained much the same. He cites two recent announcements as evidence that FalconStor, while not emphasizing virtualization, is still leveraging the same core set of technologies.
Huai mentions an OEM deal with Fujitsu, which wanted to incorporate IPStor in its high-end disk array. "That is a breakthrough for us in the OEM area," he said. Additionally Huai cites the release of IPStor version 3. "Starting with this release we have very complete support for enterprise applications which is part of our vision." That vision includes the idea "that storage management must not only cover the storage systems themselves but must reach up to provide stability in the operating system and applications area as well," he said.
New features in Version 3 include a Service Enabler Option for businesses to utilize FalconStor's storage services such as mirroring, replication, and TimeMark for existing disks and data without having to make any bulk data migration to a virtualization paradigm. There are also new application-specific agents for IBM Lotus Notes, Microsoft SQL2000, IBM DB2 and Sybase, along with Oracle 9i and Microsoft Exchange for snapshots with transactional integrity.
While there may be doubt about FalconStor's go-to-market strategy, certainly there is still plenty of enthusiasm among analysts for the technology. "IPStor Version 3's feature set with the Service Enabler Option is a solid foundation of real value to enterprises seeking vital storage services such as remote replication and mirroring, but not necessarily virtualization at present," said Dan Tanner, senior analyst for Storage and Storage Management at Aberdeen Group.
For more information:
Check out FalconStor's Web site
Take a look at the virtualization resources in this Featured Topic
About the author: Alan Earls is a freelance writer in Franklin, MA.