LXI Partners with FalconStor for VTL
January 16, 2007 Alex Woodie
LXI Enterprise Storage will resell FalconStor‘s virtual tape library (VTL) products as part of a new partnership the companies unveiled last week. While LXI previously sold its own VTL into its largely iSeries customer base, the FalconStor VTL solution is simply superior, and offers better scalability and performance, particularly during recoveries, an LXI official said.
It’s been almost two years since LXI bought certain assets of storage device maker T.D. Systems and began selling the LXI3200 VT/L to users of MMS, its OS/400-based backup and recovery software. “We had a VTL solution, but what we were finding was the VTL solution we had prior wasn’t robust enough for what our customers were wanting. So we went shopping,” says Lon Gretillat, LXI’s vice president of business development.
LXI selected FalconStor of Melville, New York, due to its experience and expertise developing VTL solutions, he says. “FalconStor is a company that invested $40 million in their product, so there’s no way to compete with that,” Gretillat says. In fact, FalconStor is such a dominating force in the VTL marketplace that practically all other VTL manufacturers OEM FalconStor’s software, giving them a 70 percent share of the market, he says.
The agreement calls for LXI to resell FalconStor’s fully configured VTL offering, which includes its flagship IPStor software and a rack-mounted appliance loaded with SATA disks. Eventually, LXI plans to find its own source for the VTL hardware, onto which it will load the IPStor software. In the meantime, going with FalconStor’s fully configured solution enables LXI to get the VTL into customers’ hands quickly.
LXI will sell four VTL models, including two devices that use internal storage, and two that use external storage. All models are powered by 64-bit processors, offer RAID-5 or RAID-6 data striping, emulate IBM 3494 tape drives, and connect to servers via iSCSI or Fibre Channel connections.
The entry-level VTL-210, which will sell in the mid-to-high $20,000 range, is a 2U uni-or dual-processor appliance that supports up to 16 virtual tape drives for connecting to hosts, up to eight virtual tape libraries, and up to 512 virtual tape cartridges, giving it 9 TB of capacity across 12 internal drive bays. The VTL-220 is a 4U model based on the VTL-210, but with double the number of internal drive bays, giving up to 18 TB of capacity.
The VTL-310 and the VTL-350 are uni-or dual-processor servers that occupy 2U of rack space. The VTL-310 supports up to 128 virtual tape drives, up to 16 virtual tape libraries, and up to 1,024 virtual cartridges, giving it up 18 TB of capacity. The VTL-350 supports up to 512 virtual drives, up to 64 virtual tape libraries, and up to 4,096 tape cartridges, giving it a maximum capacity of 512 TB. These two devices also support compression and active-active failover, as well as some other high-end features.
VTLs are gaining popularity as companies look for ways to get a handle on ever-expanding backups, shrinking backup windows, and new regulations dictating how companies must store certain types of data. The devices offer several advantages over tape drives, including speedier backups, more granular storage options, and faster recoveries.
However, LXI is careful not to oversell the “faster backup” promise of VTL. An LTO 3 drive can perform a backup at pretty much the same speed as a FalconStor VTL, Gretillat says. The big difference is what happens to the data after the backup is performed. That’s why Gretillat focuses his selling efforts on the benefits VTL brings to disaster recovery.
“People advertise VTLs as providing faster backups. That’s a scary statement to make,” he says. “We don’t talk a lot about the backup. We talk about the recovery. Recovery is where you’re going to gain 60 to 90 percent of your benefits. That’s where the rubber meets the road.”
With tape, you have about a 50 percent chance that the recovery will fail due to a mechanical problem, he says, whereas disk-based backup systems employing RAID have a success rate in the mid to high 90 percent range.
The FalconStor VTL brings other benefits, too, including encryption, replication, and de-duplication. The de-duplication technology, which FalconStor introduced in August, enables users to eliminate redundant bits of data in their backups, bringing up to a 10-fold increase in storage capacity utilization.
“It’s a great thing,” Gretillat says of the de-duplication technology, called Single Instance Repository (SIR) by FalconStor. “Essentially you could fit six months of backup on a disk that could only fit one month before. . . . As data continues to grow, de-duplication is going to be a very big topic.”
LXI is hitting the phones hard this winter to sell the FalconStor VTL to its MMS customers. The company has made significant investments over the past year in hiring people and outfitting its call center in Mason City, Iowa, which has the capacity to make 500 to 600 sales calls a day, Gretillat says. “Nobody else has the infrastructure that we do. We’ve put it all together over the last year, and it’s hard to compete against that.”
But the company is still competing against that old AS/400 industry nemesis: convincing customers to change. In many cases, getting them to hand over their old tape drives will be a painful task.
And while VTL is making inroads in the wider IT industry, it doesn’t have a lot of traction yet in our little corner of the midrange. “VTL technology is something not a lot of people in the iSeries world are even considering,” Gretillat says. “They don’t even know it’s an option.”
But it is an option. And it’s available now.