FalconStor reboots with industry’s first enterprise-class persistent data storage container

FalconStor’s new StorSafe offering leverages containerization with their VTL technology to produce an archiving solution aimed mainly at very long term retention.

It seems as if FalconStor has had more reboots than a superhero movie franchise. The company was a storage virtualization pioneer at its inception twenty years ago, although their market penetration never really came close to the initial reputation of its technology. They have been through multiple CEOs and multiple strategies. Now, however, they believe that they have created a differentiated solution that fits a clear market need  with StorSafe, an archiving solution designed  for very long term archiving needs. StorSafe updates FalconStor’s legacy virtual tape library technology to create what the company is terming the industry’s first enterprise-class persistent data storage container. It is available in beta today, with general availability slated for the second half of 2020.

“Over the last few years, the storage market has turned upside down,” said David Morris, Vice President, Global Product Strategy and Marketing at FalconStor. “The business has shifted out from a lot of people in storage in the last few years.”

One of those trends, which paralleled the rise of the cloud, was a disruption of the traditional archiving market, with tape taking a big hit, particularly outside of very large archives. Morris noted however the paradox that while the downward trajectory of virtual tape libraries [VTL] has caused players to leave the market, that has left a larger potential share for those who remain.

“We are seeing a revitalization of VTL,” Morris stated. “Everyone else in our market has left, or has End of Lifed, or seems likely to. Data Domain [Dell EMC] is about it in our space. And the VTL technology is still rock solid. So we have had a 40% growth YOY in VTL, principally because of that dearth of products.”

That trend in the market led FalconStor to take the decision to split their business into two groups and focus on VTL. This is also where the new product, StorSafe, fits in.

FalconStor’s business is now broken into two segments, Operational Data, and Archiving.

“Operational Data consists of our data replication and recovery business, which is focused around snapshots and mirroring,” Morris said. “NSS [Network Storage Server] and CDP [Continuous Data Protector]  are our products there. The archiving business is our VTL and now StorSafe.”

In a nutshell, StorSafe is a next generation of VTL which updates its functionality to today’s technology cutting edge and creates what FalconStor calls the first enterprise-class persistent data storage container.

StorSafe meets what Morris termed a fundamental shift in archiving requirements based on the evolution of compliance laws and the necessity to store large amounts of data for longer and longer periods of time.

David Morris, Vice President, Global Product Strategy and Marketing at FalconStor

“Archiving hasn’t really changed much, but archiving requirements have, with the retention periods becoming much, much longer,” he said. “Regulatory mandates have driven this focus on longer term archiving. Historically, we have focused on the active data – data that is less than a year old. The older stuff wasn’t significant 20 years ago. Now, however being a data custodian is important, and you are seeing archiving of more data that is cold and glacial and deep glacial.” This could ultimately lead to 100-year old data being preserved.

StorSafe’s technology uses modern software container technology that uses virtualization at the application layer rather than the systems layer, to let the data be disaggregated from the system-level storage components. Leveraging the power of container technologies facilitates a data-centric approach through the development of robust active and passive capabilities that are necessary during extended archive retention periods.

“The containers align with VTL and LTO to create a persistent virtual storage container,” Morris said. “This was taken to our senior engineer at FalconStor, who was initially skeptical, but he came back a week later and said it works. He said that it overcomes all the limits of the LTO format and blows away all the restrictions he has had for 18 years. This combines all the algorithms that FalconStor has developed which are applicable here with containerization. It hasn’t changed the core engine, but provides a new format to store data. We are the only one that solves this problem from an archive standpoint.”

StorSafe also provides what Morris said looks like RAID in the cloud and which FalconStor calls Redundant Array of Independent Clouds [RAIC].

“This leverages erasure coding  in multiple clouds to provide data redundancy and accelerate disaster recovery,” he indicated. “This helps in Europe with GDPR because we can break up a container with erasure coding, and if a cloud goes down, we can still rebuild the entire data set.”

Morris stressed that StorSafe is portable across any S3 cloud, object storage, and on-premises storage environments.

“We are completely heterogeneous and can go across all of the clouds and legacy backup. We also provide full chain of custody from an eDiscovery standpoint as well as compliance audit.” The end user does their own encryption, which greatly simplifies things on FalconStor’s end.

While StorSafe is the next generation of VTL, FalconStor plans to keep the original VTL around.

“Some of our legacy customers don’t want to mess with VTL,” Morris said. “With StorSafe we are seeing more interest on the DevOps and early adopter side.”

Morris indicated that about half of FalconStor’s existing customer base would be good prospects for an upgrade to StorSafe.

“We have a returned to a 100% channel model, and built some deep relationships,” he added. “We work with Hitachi. They get this. Wasabi says that it makes their cost story even better. And we have a ton of MSPs, mainly in Europe but also some in the U.S.”

Along with the StorSafe announcement, FalconStor is also rebranding its old data management platform, which used to be FMS console.

“It is now StorSight Unified Management and Analytics Console,” Morris noted. “It is an extended FMS across all our products and we see it as being similar to OpenView in the data world. It will help us from an engineering standpoint.”