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Virtualisation Field Day 6 Preview: FalconStor

Updated on 11/11/2015 with some changes based on additional information.

Virtualisation Field Day 6 is happening in Silicon Valley, California from 18th-20th November and I’m very lucky to be invited as a delegate.

I’ve been previewing the companies attending, have a look at my introductory post:I’m heading to Virtualisation Field Day 6.

FalconStor SoftwareFalconStor is a company I’ve heard of over the years (it’s been going for 15 years) but haven’t had any direct experience with their products previously. It seems to have had a chequered history with fines for paying bribes and then covering it up in its books but that’s a few years ago so I’m sure FalStore is putting that behind them!

FreeStor

FalconStor has recently release a brand new product called FreeStor. Don’t get too carried away, its not a Free product in terms of price (more on that later) but rather Free as in Freedom. FreeStor is a product to build a distributed storage resource pool across almost any type of underlying storage. It’s basically virtualised storage using FalconStore’s “Intelligent Abstraction” core so you can easily move, protect and dedupe data on or off cloud without being reliant on any particular hardware, networks or protocols. This means you can freely choose the right storage for the right price and have FreeStor manage and protect it all.

This virtualised platform then allows you to seamlessly move workloads across different underlying storage. There is WAN optimised space efficient replication and everything is globally deduped.

One platform, one view, one price is its tagline.

Protocol wise the product supports FC, iSCSI and FCoE so this isn’t a product on which to move all your SMB/NFS shares and it’s not built for OpenStack/Cinder.  Seems a bit limiting to me, something interesting would be a heterogeneous pan-cloud S3 capable virtualised storage layer. Imagine having some storage in Azure, some in AWS and some on-prem and being able to see it and access it as a single pool.

FreeStor is installed on physical hardware and there’s talk of being able to deploy it as a Virtual Appliance sometime in the future. This would be storage inception as you would then need some sort of virtualised storage already. Strangely you can’t actually install FreeStor yourself but require professional services to install and initially configure, surely it can’t be that complicated? They talk about on-ramp to the cloud including public/hybrid but if you must get FreeStor installed by professional services on bare metal does this limit your options?

The installation uses a Management Server and then Storage Servers to which your clients connect. There also seems a separate Dedupe repository, I can’t quite work out why yet.

So, about the price. FreeStor is sold by deduped capacity based on the data being managed by FreeStor, you can add as many data services as you want on top. The annual price per TB includes 24×7 support and all software upgrades while you are under maintenance. Minimum term is one year. The message being simplicity in pricing without forcing you to by additional services, it all included in an OPEX rather than CAPEX model which is attractive and cloud-ilke.

You can choose your own hardware by purchasing FreeStor as a software only solution to either use your existing investments or buy best of breed for what you need. You can also buy FreeStor with hardware bundles included if that’s the way you prefer to roll.

FreeStor seems all about creating a virtualised layer across all of your disparate storage services and being able to manage it as a single globally deduped pool. There is certainly value there but a problem I see is companies often bought those disparate storage solutions for particular reasons. Can FreeStor abstract away the disparate management yet keep the unique features that the storage was initially purchased for. Flash, tiering, data locality etc. are things that are important and companies don’t want to be left with a storage platform that only supports the lowest common denominator, it will be interesting to see how FalconStor solves this dilemma.

There are also so, so many storage start-ups at the moment challenging the incumbents. With FreeStor being a new product but from a vendor who’s been around for a while, where does it sit? It has a history of writing storage products which is something that takes time to get right.

New flash and new networking have allowed many new companies and products to be formed on the backs of great new ideas. What makes it hard for customers is the enormous and often cut throat storage industry competition where they face a barrage of choices. This means companies can suffer from the “Yet Another Storage Company” syndrome where they are not considered only because a company can evaluate only a few offerings. FalconStor’s reference customers seem to be ISVs / cloud providers who provide FalonStore as a service to their clients, I am interested if this is also targeted at enterprises.

In a very crowded market, I am really keen to hear what FalconStor brings to the table with its new FreeStor as it has some big name customers, will be interesting to see how they are using it.

Gestalt IT is paying for travel, accommodation and things to eat to attend Virtualisation Field Day but aren’t paying a penny for me to write anything good or bad about anyone.

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