#VFD6 Preview: FalconStor

Virtualizaion Field Day 6 Preview: FalconStor

As a delegate for Virtualization Field Day 6, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to learn about some companies that I’ve never heard of, and learn more about some that I’ve seen before. Today, I’m continuing a series of posts that I’ve thrown together with what I’ve gathered about these companies so far. Let’s dive into FalconStor!

Quick Company Background:

As far as tech companies go, FalconStor is a dinosaur (but not in a bad way). Oftentimes tech companies can seem like marketplace mainstays after being around for five years, FalconStor has been on the scene since inception in 2000. Constantly changing things up, FalconStor recently released a version of storage virtualization software called FreeStor (refreshing a past iteration. The platform,licensed by deduplicated TB, allows you to bring feature rich services such as global deduplication, replication, snaphosts, and storage HA to whatever type of storage that you have on the backend to clients over FC/FCoE/iSCSI protocols. Imagine an overlay that virtualizes a storage platform under the covers allowing you to consume capacity from multiple vendors or even whitebox platforms on a whim. Yes, from what I understand, you can use this platform under the covers to run and grow your own storage platform from commodity gear, but I’m also hearing that FalconStor is actually licensing this tech to vendors who are in need of bringing these services to their platforms in the marketplace today.

Here’s some slideware that breaks down what I know about the platform so far:

freestor_topology

You can see that management servers support the storage servers and dedupe repositories on the backend. Beyond that, we’ll have to get a bit more into what all of these bits actually are responsible for in our presentation as the exact responsibilities of each component here are a bit nebulous.

My thoughts around usecases:

SDS is a crowded scene, with nearly all of the big players out there having some play in being able to virtualize other platforms (NetApp, HP, EMC). What makes the solution interesting is the extra services that we’re able to leverage on top of the platform bringing services such as data-duplication and replication to your environment on what could potentially be commodity gear. I could envision using this tech to run a tier of “good enough” storage services in my environment with the bonus of adding replication to the mix (often a feature that you have to pay for).

Because it’s a software defined platform, i’m guessing things like provisioning and control will be available via API. I could see leveraging these APIs to provision storage to customers in a multi-tenant cloud environment.

How good are the replication/data-efficiency bits? Could this product be used to provide some help for the SMB space by bringing cheap data-efficiency and replication to small scale deployments?

What I’m hoping to learn:

  • I think my buddy Keith Townsend hits the nail on the head when he talks about company strategy. FalconStor has been around for a long time and clearly knows what they are doing. That said, how are they going to navigate a market that’s saturated with storage vendors.
  • How is the platform being licensed today. Strictly consumer? Or, is FalconStor OEMing this platform to other vendors as well? If so, that’s a pretty good market strategy. Figuring things like dedupe/replication out on your own are hard wouldn’t it be nice to have software bits to just plug into your platform?
  • Where is this platform winning today in the marketplace? There are just so many vendors trying to do this very thing in the marketplace. What customer is the target customer/sweet-spot customer in the marketplace.
  • Can I use this platform to bring API based performance metrics to platforms that don’t expose these metrics?
  • What’s automated in the platform?
  • How does the platform maintain data-integrity and performance across many different performance levels that software is required to virtualize?
  • Is this always going to be a pure block storage play? While block is cool, expanding to the NAS features would be an amazing step in the right direction.
  • Replication huh? What kind of plugins exist for the platform to allow integration into existing replication technologies… SRA for SRM?
  • Talk to me about dedupe, inline, post-process, or both…
  • Is data always dedpued on storage or is it de/re-hydrated during the process at some point?
  • Support for the major players. Is FreeStor supported by the big players in virtualization?

What are you hoping to learn?

As a delegate for Virtualization Field Day, I’m honored to represent the tech community onsite with great companies like FalconStor. If there are questions that you have for FalconStor, or use-cases that you’d like considered, let me know by pinging me on Twitter or commenting below. I’m more than happy to work to get them answered/addressed during our session.

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