Falconstor set for 2014 take-off with unified data platform

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Last month Falconstor Software announced Optimized Backup and Deduplication Solution (OBDS) version 8.0, merging two of its main product offerings—VTL (Virtual Tape Library) and FDS (File-interface Deduplication System); these share a common interface and its Single Instance Repository (SIR), achieving a smaller data footprint. Falconstor claims OBDS provides a 50% cost-saving to users for system requirements for the same data volumes.

This move represents the first fruits in creating a unified data management and services platform. It is banking on this strategy to start soaring again after a few rocky years. Tim Sheets, Falconstor’s VP of marketing and enablement told me “This is the year of execution”.

The roadmap for the coming months includes adding business continuity, continuous data protection (CDP) and migration to the unified platform—and new interim versions (7.6) were also announced to be available as software or an integrated appliance.

Some existing users upgrading VTL to the merged OBDS product have experienced dramatic performance improvements according to Sheets, who said the performance “sustains 10 more jobs in an hour on one node, or 12 if migrating VTL and FDS, with less things to do”. The company claims that version 8.0 delivers a 65% reduction in administrator work, an 11.8TB/hour sustained throughput rate, and less downtime. 

A large majority of Falconstor’s 2,500 active customers spread across 50 countries use VTL, while about 15% use FDS; a wizard-driven upgrade for both is seamless for those on version 7.5. After migrating, users have more expansion as the repository will hold up to 3.8PB of data; backup time can reduce by up to two thirds and block de-duplication data reduction averages 70-1 (versus an industry average of 20- or 30-1).

Existing users get a no cost upgrade so can soon see what improvements they achieve; if these are anywhere near the claims, this should do much to protect Falconstor’s user base. The company is hoping these and other differentiating features will also woo new customers. Sheets mentioned other companies’ inability to offer offload tape, zero-impact backups or anywhere near the data expansion achievable by its scale-up and scale-out architecture—or its support for a heterogeneous mix of virtual and physical environments using the abstraction layer of its unified platform.

Nor did Sheets finish there. He extolled the virtues of its migration capability using a ‘microscan’ 512 byte comparison (the nearest competitor comparing 4–8,000 byte blocks), faster replication from site A to B or B to C, including into the cloud. He said this could reduce migrations taking days or months to hours, greatly assisting business continuity. Separately, there is recovery testing and no boot peaks.

So within this product set there seems to be a sound foundation for take-off for a company which last posted a full year profit in 2008. Falconstor sank to a heavy loss in 2010 but, by slimming down and re-focusing, it made a small profit again in the final quarter of 2013. Sheets credited CEO Gary Quinn who, he said, had done a lot to optimise finance by cuts and adjustments, so the company now has no debt, and had then moved to reinvest. “The company is in its best shape for some years,” he said. 

The unified platform is about one tool being more efficient to users in terms of administration time and money, and about achieving scalability and agility without a need to rip-and-replace. This chimes with enterprises with a range of hardware and software types (heterogeneity) wanting better control over these assets without being locked into one vendor.

FalconStor has actually resurrected an old idea, essentially putting its IPStor platform back together again. This acknowledges that enterprises have differing capacity and performance needs. A good common interface is conceptually the easiest way to bring together former islands of operation to move to a holistic approach for such things as data retention and security policies and business agility.

Bloor champions the agile storage approach, so will be watching to see how well this flies in 2014.