FalconStor Virtualizes Continuous Data Protection Appliances

FalconStor Software on Wednesday unveiled a virtual continuous data protection appliance the company said eliminates the need to restore lost data by ensuring data is always available.

The company's new FalconStor Continuous Data Protection Virtual Appliance for VMware is a virtual appliance created under VMware's Virtual Appliance program under which technology partners can create virtual appliances with pre-integrated solution stacks to take the place of hardware appliances.

With continuous data protection, or CDP, changes to data are backed up immediately or at certain pre-defined intervals to allow users to be able to instantly recover a deleted, corrupted, or modified file. While many applications allow data changes to be captured on-the-fly, others back up the changes at set intervals.

The new FalconStor virtual CDP appliance is a pre-built, pre-configured, and ready-to-run application that sits inside a virtual machine, said Donald Mead, vice president of partner alliances for the Melville, NY-based vendor.

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FalconStor designed the appliance so that it can be downloaded and installed via a script to handle all the steps to make it work within 10 minutes, said Mead. "It's better than most virtual appliances because they need to be manually set-up," he said.

The appliance integrates with VMware ESX server to provide continuous availability to all data whether it resides on a physical or virtual server, Mead said.

Changes to data tied to physical servers can be continuously backed up to another physical server or to a virtual server so that if the production server crashes, the image for that server can be seamlessly restored to another physical server or to a virtual server, Mead said. Virtual server data can be continuously protected to another virtual server for instant restores as well, he said.

"And since all data is mirrored to the VMware ESX server, you can mount the data to a backup server for long-term protection," he said.

Everybody has been talking about server-less backups and LAN-free backups, said Wendy Petty, vice president of sales at FalconStor. "This is true server-free, LAN-free backup because the data on the CDP appliance is not going over the network," she said. "We've solved the problem of backup windows. It's all on the CDP appliance, and continuously backed up."

It's an argument the channel has swallowed.

Adam Bari, managing director of IPM, a New York-based solution provider who works with both VMware and FalconStor, said the virtual CDP appliance means solution providers like his company can now start selling virtual storage appliances instead of hardware-only solutions.

The solution is especially suitable for doing CDP with data stored in remote offices, Bari said. "FalconStor has taken a very unique approach to the CDP market," he said. "We look forward to working with FalconStor to make money on this."

Greg Knieriemen, vice president of marketing at Chi, a Cleveland, Ohio-based FalconStor and VMware partner, said he has seen strong interest in a virtual CDP appliance from customers he has been talking to.

"The big pull is that it's a unique product," Knieriemen said. "As far as I can tell, it's the only solution for CDP that gives instantaneous data recovery, and at an attractive price point."

The FalconStor virtual CDP appliance is very intuitive, and customers with VMware experience who have downloaded a 30-day trial version of the appliance find it easy to use, Knieriemen said.

"The 30-day trial is a great strategy for FalconStor," Knieriemen said. "It gives someone a chance to test the tires. If the customer wants to test CDP with an appliance, they normally need to buy another server. With FalconStor, they can just create a virtual server. Then they can crash the virtual server to test it. It's easy to crash a virtual server quickly."

That is an important benefit, Mead said.

With VMware, customers typically need to use a third party to handle data replication, Mead said. "With our virtual appliance, customers can replicate their LUNs to the remote site. Before, people needed to replicate data to a disaster recovery center, but they never tested it. Our technology allows them to test the data any time."

Testing a disaster recovery system today typically requires an entire weekend to test, Petty said. "Now customers can test disaster recovery live," she said. "Just mount the data to a virtual machine. You can test it without affecting the data center, and you don't need to plan a weekend to do it."

For solution providers, FalconStor's virtual CDP appliances offer many opportunities, Knieriemen said.

For instance, he said that the virtual appliances will protect virtual machines and their data. However, as customers adopt the technology, they will need to add more data capacity, and will look to solution providers for help in choosing and deploying the right types of hardware. "We need to look at how to protect each customer's environment," he said.

Solution providers will also need to demo the virtual CDP appliance concept and show customers how it will help them, Knieriemen said.

"But this is no different from FalconStor's current CDP appliance, except that it is software, and easier to deploy," he said. "Typically, when we do a full CDP solution using hardware appliances, there's a lot of work to do to get it to work in a customer environment. This new virtual appliance plugs right into VMware, because as far as VMware is concerned, all virtual appliances are the same."

The FalconStor Continuous Data Protection Virtual Appliance for VMware is scheduled to be publicly demonstrated next week at the VMworld conference in San Francisco.