VMware ESX Server and its latest vSphere software release have become instrumental in helping organizations tame server hardware costs within data centers while improving the ROI associated with existing and new projects. But this isn’t to say that virtualization doesn’t come with any pain points–and managing virtual storage infrastructures is one of the biggest. So to help combat these challenges, FalconStor Software today announced at VMworld 2009 a comprehensive VMware Initiative that will help organizations bridge their physical and virtual infrastructures and provide continuous availability in multi-vendor storage environments.
Many of the emerging pain points within virtual storage infrastructure concern the enablement of high availability in VMware environments. Despite VMware’s virtualization capabilities, many of VMware’s high availability features depend on a highly available storage infrastructure that VMware does not directly address.
Backup pains are exasperated in growing virtual environments as physical and virtual server infrastructures often demand different backup techniques. As a result, they are managed separately with little commonality in their data protection or disaster recovery approaches.
However this is not a long-term strategy as standardized, common interface to the storage infrastructure is becoming a necessity in order to effectively deploy server virtualization. Further, these standardized interfaces need to encompass remote and branch offices (ROBOs) as well as small and medium businesses (SMBs), as they are the ones that can least afford to make significant storage investments.
In light of these emerging enterprise, ROBO and SMB requirements, FalconStor today introduced a new VMware Initiative that focuses in on four areas.
- Continuous Availability. FalconStor extends VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager services to the physical server infrastructure and provides automated failover and failback support for these physical servers whether they are located locally or remotely.
One of the greatest costs for disaster recovery at remote sites has to do with the build-out of an infrastructure that meets the same specs as an organization’s critical but more costly primary site.
Having parallel environments quickly becomes cost prohibitive especially when an organization considers that its DR services is something it does not use very often. It is basically a stand-by environment and provides fail-over when required only for a very short period of time until the main infrastructure is brought back up and running.
FalconStor’s virtualization platform helps take care of some of these biggest challenges when organizations implement vCenter Site Recovery Manager. It eliminates the need for organizations to deploy the same storage infrastructure at both the production and recovery sites while also removing storage system vendor lock-in.
This is noteworthy since vCenter Site Recovery Manager support is limited to a relatively small number of disk vendors. Using FalconStor, organizations can use whatever storage they have available, locally or remotely. In so doing, it brings the management of these disparate storage infrastructures for physical and virtual environments under one umbrella.
The other vCenter Site Recovery Manager drawback that FalconStor addresses with this release is the difficulty in failing back after a failover. Currently, organizations have to redefine replication methods from their DR site back to the production site, create all of those protection groups at the remote site, institute recovery plans at the production site, fail over from the remote site to production, and then repeat the same steps from the production site to the remote site to protect the production site again by Site Recovery Manager.
Not only can this be very expensive in terms of resources and time in order to do it an Site Recovery Manager failback properly, it is prone to human error. To simplify this, FalconStor now provides a plug-in to vCenter that will scan vCenter and the storage server on the protected site that will discover the virtual machine, data store and storage replication configuration details. Once this is done, SRM is set up to provide automated failover and failback and even migrate the recovery plan to the remote site. Most impressively, this can all be managed and accomplished completely within Site Recovery Manager.
- Virtual Storage Management. FalconStor’s new plug-in to the vCenter console was simply a stroke of genius as it enables vCenter to manage the server and the storage infrastructure from one console. Using vCenter, organizations can manage any FalconStor Networked Storage Server (NSS) infrastructure so they do not have to go to the NSS console to do routine storage tasks such as provisioning LUNs. This should further expedite virtual server deployments and improve their protection since the plug-in completely automates the whole set up process.
- Virtual Appliance Solutions. One of the other slick moves that FalconStor has made is porting all of its solutions to virtual appliances to offer a cost-effective data services model to ROBOs and SMBs.
Lately FalconStor has ported its File-interface Deduplication System (FDS) to the VMware environment in the form of a virtual appliance without requiring organizations to add networked storage to their infrastructure. This option becomes very attractive to ROBOs and SMBs as they can now introduce deduplication into their environment on their existing physical VMware ESX Server with no changes to their physical environment.
- New Direct Storage Access. This new feature provides FalconStor Virtual Appliances a direct path to the network or storage card and completely bypasses the storage virtualization layer created by the hypervisor.
The FalconStor I/O device driver directly accesses the fiber channel card or 10GB Ethernet card sitting in that virtual machine which should result in higher performance connectivity for storage services. In its internal testing, FalconStor has seen a 10-fold increase in performance and can nearly maximize the I/O throughput on an ESX server that has two NICs assuming the attached storage device can support these high rates of I/O.
VMware plays an increasingly critical role as to how organizations are cutting their data center operational costs while improving application availability and recoverability; but VMware can’t do it all. This new VMware initiative from FalconStor does an admirable job of filling in some of the holes that VMware leaves behind while taking advantage of the virtual infrastructure that VMware has created in the process. In so doing, FalconStor provides organizations a clear path for resolving their storage and data protection issues locally and remotely regardless if they are using physical or virtual servers and in such a way that it does not take a rocket scientist to implement and support.