FalconStor Marries VTL And De-Dupe Technology

The new FalconStor VTL Enterprise Edition combines de-duplication, compression, replication with encryption, and full tape support into a single appliance, said Diamond Lauffin, product evangelist for the Melville, NY-based software vendor.

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.

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.

Lauffin, an independent consultant working with FalconStor to develop the vendor's channel for the new product, said the new FalconStor VTL Enterprise Edition allows clustering of up to eight VTL nodes and up to four single instance repository nodes in order to ensure expandability and high-availability of the data after it has been de-duped, and compared it to offerings from de-market dupe leader Data Domain, Santa Clara, Calif. It also ensures that data is de-duped across multiple nodes, Lauffin said.

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"Data Domain has no clustering, while FalconStor offers up to an eight-node VTL cluster," he said. "If you de-dupe on a single box, it's OK. But how do you expand and have de-dupe? Data Domain has a single head machine. If you buy a new head, they don't communicate. So if you bring one Active Directory to one head, and one Active Directory to another, you might still retain multiple copies of the data."

In another example, Lauffin said imagine a company with 20,000 employees, each of which has an electronic copy of the employee manual. With eight-node clustering, only one copy of that manual is kept, rather than multiple copies, one on each node, he said, giving a 20,000-to-1 de-dupe ratio for this one file.

Clustering also helps ensure high availability of the VTL, Lauffin said.

A source close to Data Domain said that as long as data is replicated, it is protected with Data Domain appliances. And inside those appliances, data is protected against a hard drive failure with RAID 6. Data Domain is planning to offer clustered de-duplication this year, the source said.

Also new with the FalconStor VTL Enterprise Edition is tape-aware parsing, said Wayne Lam, co-founder and executive vice president of product management at FalconStor.

With tape-aware parsing, the metadata associated with individual tapes is stripped from the data as it is being saved to the VTL during the backup stream and then re-written during the backup process to increase the de-dupe ratio and reduce media costs, Lam said. This helps customers adjust the block size of the backups for maximum data density, he said.

Also new is automated tape caching, which allows the new VTL to serve as a cache before data is written to tape, Lam said. "People love to use VTLs without physical tape behind it," he said. "But others want to use VTLs as a cache for fast restores. This streams data to disk and tape, keeping a shadow copy of backup data on disk for fast restores."

Customers can also use the new VTL to consolidate multiple tapes, Lam said. "Customers may have a lot of 100-Gbyte tapes, but use only 10 Gbytes per tape," he said. "They can't squeeze the data. We allow them to combine smaller tapes to a fewer large tapes. So instead of one million tapes, they can consolidate to 10,000 tapes."

FalconStor is also adding virtual shredding of data to Department of Defense standards.

Also new is support for Symantec Open Storage APIs, which Lauffin said allows for seamless integration of the VTL with Symantec's NetBackup 6.5 software. "This gives NetBackup 6.5 full access to all the VTL functions," he said. "NetBackup is aware of the de-dupe capabilities and the backup sets."

FalconStor has plans to expand support to other third-party software, but NetBackup 6.5 was first because of its open approach, Lam said.

"This is a real advantage to the channel," he said. "In the channel, nobody is making money on NetBackup. FalconStor is empowering the integrators to go to NetBackup users and get real revenue. They can capitalize on a products that they're not making money on."

Greg Knieriemen, vice president of marketing at Chi, a Cleveland, Ohio-based solution provider, said his company is already preparing a campaign and Website specifically for the new VTL.

Knieriemen said it is interesting to see FalconStor integrate VTL and de-dupe technologies, especially as other vendors including Data Domain and EMC do the same. "There's an underlying battle going on," he said.

FalconStor is making a big VTL push into the enterprise market, a market that Knieriemen said is very strategic to him.

The big question in the VTL market is whether customers should adopt VTLs to handle backups, which helps preserve their existing tape backup processes while adding the performance and flexibility of disk, or go straight to a disk-based backup technology, Knieriemen said.

The answer, he said, is, it depends on the customer's objective. "If its disaster recovery and business continuity, where you need to get data off-site, there are other ways, and there's no need to keep the tape format," he said. "But if you want to continue to do backups, and keep your tape infrastructure, VTL is the way to do it. Many customers are doing disk-based backups, disk-to-disk, disk-to-disk-to-tape, and VTLs. But they're still backing up to tape for longer-term off-site repositories."

The FalconStor VTL Enterprise Edition is currently available with a starting list price of about $53,000.