FalconStor Unveils A Virtual, Virtual Tape Appliance

It is one of two new virtual tape libraries the company is introducing this week aimed at bringing down the cost of the technology.

Virtual tape libraries, or VTLs, are disk arrays configured to look to the host server and the backup software as if they are physical tape libraries. Data is streamed to and recovered from the VTL as if it were tape, so no changes are needed to the backup process. However, because they use hard drives, the backup and recover speed is much higher than when using tape drives. Data backed up to a VTL can also be backed up to a physical tape for archiving or off-site storage.

The FalconStor VTL Virtual Appliance is a pre-configured, ready-to-run software application with an operating system that can be downloaded into a virtual machine using VMware, said John Lallier, vice president of product management for the vendor.

FalconStor this week also introduced a new family of low-cost physical VTLs. The primary differences between the virtual and the physical appliances is its price and the fact that the virtual VTL performance is limited compared to the hardware versions.

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Both the virtual and the physical VTL appliances include FalconStor's Single Instance Repository de-duplication technology.

De-duplication, also called "de-dupe," removes duplicate information as data is backed up or archived. It can be done on the file level, where duplicate files are replaced with a marker pointing to one copy of the file, and/or at the sub-file or byte level, where duplicate bytes of data are removed, resulting in a significant decrease in storage capacity requirements.

It is only the latest in a handful of virtual storage appliances which do the same function as hardware-based appliances but which run on a virtual machine built using VMware.

FalconStor last month unveiled its first virtual storage appliance, one which does continuous data protection between physical and/or virtual servers. It is aimed at helping customers do LAN-less data backups and archiving as well as build disaster recovery architectures which rely on virtual servers at the remote site.

Last month also saw EMC introduce a virtual data de-duplication appliance using technology it received from its Avamar acquisition.

Steve Bishop, CTO of VeriStor Systems, an Atlanta-based storage solution provider, said he is seeing a number of vendors starting to move to offer virtual storage appliances.

"Customers are asking, can their storage applications be virtualized?" Bishop said. "We're seeing a lot of interest."

Greg Knieriemen, vice president of marketing at Chi, a Cleveland, Ohio-based FalconStor partner which has already had good success with the vendor's virtual CDP appliance, said a virtual VTL could help open the market for replacing tape with disk-based storage.

"We're selling VTLs to SMBs and enterprises, across the board," Knieriemen said. "It's a 50-50 split. But there's a much larger base of SMB customers. The SMB adoption of VTLs is still marginalized. This could really open the door for VTLs in the SMB market."

Both Bishop and Knieriemen said the $8,000 list price for the FalconStor virtual VTL is a good price, when compared to physical VTLs.

However, because of the slower performance of the virtual VTL appliance compared to hardware appliances, the right choice for customers depends on a number of factors, including backup performance requirements, customer size, what virtualization environment is available, how many virtual machines are in use, and what the customer's backup window looks like, Knieriemen said.

"You have to really develop a complete profile of the customer," he said.

Wendy Petty, vice president of sales at FalconStor, said the virtual VTL appliance makes it easy for customers or solution providers to test the vendor's VTL software.

"Just download the VTL appliance, and you can test the software as a proof-of-concept," Petty said. "It's very, very simple. You don't need to send a hardware out to test it."

With their de-dupe capability, the virtual VTL appliances are also good for small remote offices, Petty said. "Partners can offer a solution that saves customers money," she said. "They can take the management from the remote offices, where backups are not normally done anyway. And they can do global de-dupe with our patented replication."

For customers looking for higher performance, FalconStor also unveiled three new VTL hardware appliances.

The VTL-S6 can be configured for up to four different tape libraries with a total of 16 virtual tape drives and 1,024 tapes, for a maximum pre-de-dupe capacity of up to 50 Tbytes. It has a backup speed of 200 Mbytes per second.

The VTL-S12 can be configured for up to eight different tape libraries with a total of 32 virtual tape drives and 2,048 tapes, for a maximum pre-de-dupe capacity of up to 100 Tbytes. It has a backup speed of 250 Mbytes per second.

The VTL-S24 can be configured for up to 16 different tape libraries with a total of 64 virtual tape drives and 4,096 tapes, for a maximum pre-de-dupe capacity of up to 200 Tbytes. It has a backup speed of 300 Mbytes per second.

The virtual VTL appliance, model VTL-V3, can be configured for up to 4 different tape libraries with a total of 16 virtual tape drives and 1,024 tapes, for a maximum pre-de-dupe capacity of up to 40 Tbytes. It has a backup speed of 60 Mbytes per second.

All four VTLs are available. The VTL-V3 is priced at $8,000, while the VTL-6 is priced at about $20,000. Replication software is available as an option for $3,000 to $8,000, depending on capacity. A Fibre Channel connectivity option is available for the three hardware appliances with a price of $3,000 to $8,000.