Disaster Proof Hardware and a Case of Mistaken Cloud Storage

This week it was evident everyone is getting back to work – at least those individuals who still have jobs and received something other than pink slips over the holiday break. People started returning my phone calls and emails, PR agencies reached out to me requesting my time for briefings and, maybe most importantly, news releases started flowing again so I have something other than 2009 recaps and 2010 trends to write about. This week three news items caught my attention: FalconStor Software’s FDS 2.0 release; a cloud storage announcement from Pillar Data Systems and a new term (like this industry needed any more): Disaster Proof Hardware.

First, I want to talk about the release of the FalconStor FDS 2.0 software. Well, actually I talked about that a couple of days ago in another blog I wrote so what I actually want to discuss is the ramifications of that software release and FalconStor’s expanding relationship with Nexsan Technologies.

It is an understatement to say that every deduplication provider in the space – hardware or software – has EMC/Data Domain squarely in their sights. FalconStor is no exception and many of the features that FalconStor introduced as part of FDS 2.0 are clearly intended to give EMC/Data Domain a run for their money.Falconstor’s increase in the FDS 2.0 replication fan-in ratio (now 150:1 up from 32:1) and new integration with Symantec’s NetBackup OpenStorage API clearly were needed to keep it on even footing with Data Domain.

However FDS 2.0’s release is notable in two important ways. First, by introducing high availability (HA), it recognizes the growing importance of HA in disk-based backup solutions. Obviously, every site does not need an HA solution but some sites – like the site that serves as the replication target for all of the other remote sites – probably need better than two 9’s of uptime. This is one of the first disk-based backup solutions in this market segment that offers this feature functionality.

The other feature that it incorporates is recognizing that not all data at remote sites needs to be replicated back to the main site. Granted, this means users have to somewhat engage their brains and can no longer just click the big red “Replication” button when backing up data (well, actually, I don’t think the button is red on the FalconStor configuration screen and you can still replicate all of the data on the remote appliance if you want). However, the point I am trying to make is that if you have bandwidth issues between the remote site and the main site or you want to try to control your storage capacity growth at the main site, FDS 2.0 now gives you the opportunity to do it.

This more granular management control and new features like HA in disk-based backup solutions is what I was referring to last Friday when I started talking about disk-based backup 2.0 being one of the trends of 2010. Companies are figuring out that disk coupled with deduplication and replication are just the first steps in implementing disk-based backup.

All those three technologies do is result in successful backups and get the data offsite. But now that you have these copies of data, how are you going to optimally manage them and effectively use them for other purposes? Since IT employees are no longer spending half of their work weeks tracking down what went wrong with last night’s backup because they are now succeeding on a regular basis, they can start to do tasks that add more value to the organization.

I also briefly wanted to touch on the growing alliance between FalconStor and Nexsan. As anyone who is close to the storage industry knows, a number of storage providers use FalconStor’s software in some capacity for data protection including the likes of EMC, IBM and Sun. However, FalconStor’s relationship with Nexsan merits special attention because of what it means for both of them.

First, Nexsan sells exclusively into the channel and with EMC’s acquistion of Data Domain, this creates the opportunity for Nexsan to access some reseller accounts in which it may not have previously had a presence.

Second, Nexsan has a solid midrange system that, in talking to its users, they find more efficient and reliable than midrange systems from their better known competitors – namely IBM, HP and EMC. However getting a foothold in customers accounts without one of these three letter names behind them can still be a challenge. By partnering with FalconStor and making it available in the form of its Nexsan Dedupe SG, Nexsan can now compete in accounts whereas they otherwise may have been on the outside looking in.

All told, everyone is saying that in the midrange deduplication appliance one should keep their eyes on ExaGrid and Quantum as EMC/Data Domain competitors but, frankly, Nexsan and FalconStor have quietly built themselves a nice little solution for SMBs that may have them nipping at the heels of these other players in the space sooner than later.

On an unrelated note, this week I also spoke to Pillar (which also resells FalconStor) about their new Axiom Slammer Series 2 that was announced this. Yet what caught my attention was another Pillar press release that it put out regarding the “Solid Cloud” offering from one of its resellers, Eagle Business Solutions.

Now when I read that press release, at least the first line of it, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It reads, “Eagle Business Solutions introduced today a cloud-based solution that combines the highly-efficient Pillar Axiom storage system …” and I stopped right there. When I read a cloud-based storage solution, I could not figure out what that meant – a private cloud, a public cloud, or some combination of both.

In talking to Pillar yesterday, they straightened me out and explained that Eagle Business was talking about building a private cloud-based solution using the Pillar Axiom. However users need to be on their guard when talking to any midrange array providers who start throwing the “cloud storage” term around. Cloud storage can mean just about anything and, with this space changing as fast as it is, what a storage provider meant 2 or 3 months ago when it used the term may have totally changed when you talk to them again.

Finally, I had a really great chat yesterday with Robb Moore, the CEO of ioSafe. For those of you unfamiliar with ioSafe, on the surface it does something very basic – provides users with an external drive called the ioSafe Solo. I know – big whoop – everyone and their brother does that.

However, here is what makes this product worthy of mention. I use Mozy Backup to protect my home PC and I have come to hate it.

Yes, I know I have been a long time propon
ent of online backup but I am constantly downloading huge PDFs, getting 10 GB PPTs from every storage vendor under the sun and saving all of that stuff to my hard drive. So when poor little Mozy goes to back it up, it has a minor coronary. So I had resigned myself to adopting some sort of disk-based backup scheme and dealing with the headache of shuttling disks off site and storing my backup data somewhere offsite.

Using ioSafe’s appliance, I don’t have to do that. ioSafe is part of an emerging generation of disaster proof hardware that is designed to withstand most natural disasters that might occur in my home office such as dumping coffee on my PC, my youngest son throwing a ball at me and hitting my computer instead, even a house fire started by my faulty wiring in my dishwasher (don’t laugh, that happened just a few months ago which GE replaced it for free – thanks GE!).

The beauty of ioSafe is that I can now backup locally and don’t have to worry about taking my backups offsite since it will withstand most natural and man-made disasters. While Rob cautioned me not to expect the ioSafe Solo to survive a direct nuclear hit or a drop from a 5-story building, I don’t have any immediate plans to get nuked or take it along with me on a swan dive from a high rise building in Omaha so I think I am covered.

In any case, because I was looking to buy something like this anyway, Rob is sending me one. That means sometime in the near future I will do a write-up on it which you can read about at that time on DCIG’s website. (Don’t worry – I’ll disclose it is a pay to play blog but that’s what DCIG does anyway. If that causes anyone any heartburn, you can contact the owner of DCIG and he can take it up with me.)

Well, that’s it for my musings and observations this week. Next week I am off to Palo Alto, CA, to hobnob at The BDEvent with the storage elite – Steve Duplessie, Stephen Fosket, Dave Vallente, George Crump, Deni Connor and, yes, even the illustrious Curtis W Preston will be there gracing us all with his presence –  so expect a blog or two next week based upon my observations and thoughts while in attendance.

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