Users, SearchStorage.com spoke with last fall, who were looking for FalconStor Software Inc.'s virtual tape library (VTL) software to allow their backup applications to supervise writes to tape, won't find the solution to that problem with 3 Par Data Inc.'s new Utility VTL product. But, analysts say, the way 3Par's storage performs means FalconStor's product could have special appeal to its customers.
3Par's utility storage product line places a NAS head by fellow startup OnStor Inc. in front of its Inserv storage arrays, virtualizing them into one large pool for the user. In the background, through a process 3Par calls dynamic optimization, its software reallocates and provisions the storage, and can also be used to migrate data from one tier of storage to another, if a user so chooses.
If a 3Par user places different arrays of disks behind the NAS head, or a tape library, it's conceivable they could create a tiered storage environment. With this setup, FalconStor's VTL can be placed in the second tier or nearline storage level behind 3Par's system.
3Par has gotten some traction in the market and in big accounts, such as MCI Inc., with this offering. The telecom giant picked 3Par storage and AppIQ Inc.'s storage resource management software (before AppIQ was acquired by Hewlett Packard Co. [HP]) for its managed storage service -- a huge vote of confidence for the startups, who usually lose to market leaders like EMC Corp. in such deals.
Meanwhile, according to 3Par, users want a VTL, and specifically want FalconStor's VTL software. They reference a customer they say they can't name, describing it as a "large storage services provider" (not MCI), who specifically requested 3Par certify FalconStor as interoperable with its storage. The user reportedly has 150 terabytes of 3Par storage in production.
However, according to Mike Karp, senior analyst with Enterprise Management Associates, previous questions that have been raised about FalconStor's product with regard to backup control and keeping a tight managerial rein on data migration might be the wrong one for 3Par users, since many 3Par users' environments are managed out of their view already with the dynamic optimization software.
"You don't control it -- that's the whole point. You rely on 3Par's software to understand the policies for different data in your environment," Karp said.
Karp said that for some users, this system may offer some significant advantages. "You can do a quick backup transfer to the VTL, the VTL hands it off to tape, and does data verification on its own, away from production systems," Karp pointed out. "With this kind of VTL, you can afford to take a lot more time doing backups because it's not tying up primary storage, and with backup windows collapsing in many industries, a lot of users feel that any time they can save processing cycles during the day, they can come out a winner."
So, assuming a user wants to use FalconStor's product, what kind of integration is being offered by 3Par? What, in other words, is the difference between buying the VTL from 3Par and buying the products separately?
"Some of our users, including the one that prompted us to do the integration, have done just that," admitted Craig Nunes, vice president of marketing for 3Par. According to Nunes, the companies are conducting interoperability testing to ensure the products are certified to work together, and will offer joint support for the product.
"This is similar to what HP is doing with Microsoft's DPM [Data Protection Manager] server," said analyst Greg Schulz, founder and analyst with StorageIO. "You can buy the pieces, the difference being is that HP tested, tuned, documented, certified and will support it."
More to the point, Schulz said, was that the new 3Par product might be a challenge to EMC's Celerra.
"Basically, it levels the playing field with EMC," he said. "Both can put a NAS gateway and VTL in front of storage now."
Schulz said the technological difference between the products was minimal. Both are using FalconStor's software for VTL, EMC with Clariion storage in the background and 3Par with its Inserv arrays. EMC uses Celerra for NAS; 3Par uses OnStor. Clariion supports SATA; Inserv supports FATA.
"That's a tie," Schulz said of the disk format differences.
According to Schulz. Clariion has more mature replication software but, he pointed out, Inserv offers thin provisioning.
"And, of course, 3Par is a small company and EMC's a big company," he said. "Some people like to buy from one or the other for different reasons. It comes down to what your values are."