Start-up FalconStor Software Inc. will shortly launch software for integrating disparate storage resources over Ethernet, an offering designed to protect customers' investments in IP and older storage gear.
The company's IPStor software runs on a Linux-based Intel server, which FalconStor says will let companies create virtual storage pools from data housed in server-attached storage devices and in Fibre Channel-based network-attached storage systems and storage-area networks (SAN).
One upshot of FalconStor's product offering could be that customers actually use it to avoid adding Fibre Channel to their IP nets, says Steve DuPlessie, an analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group Inc. While many large businesses have installed Fibre Channel SANs, others have not, citing concerns about training costs and added network complexity.
DuPlessie says FalconStor is months ahead of IP storage competitors, plus he says others tend to focus either on IP storage or the pooling of disparate storage resources.
Another thing that FalconStor has going for it is a management team with a proven track record. Its CEO is ReiJane Huai, formerly CEO of Cheyenne Software, a company that during the mid-1990s owned more than half the market for LAN-based back-up software (Computer Associates International Inc. later acquired Cheyenne). The company, which would not disclose the names of its investors or amount of funding, is named after a French jet.
"People in the networking world don't know that much about storage. For them, storage is a mirage," says Huai, who left Computer Associates last year. "Storage and networking must go together. For storage networking to take hold, we have to rely on platform and interface-independent products and embrace existing and future interfaces."
In addition to working over IP and supporting Fibre Channel, IPStor will be compatible with SCSI, IBM's Serial Storage Architecture (SSA) and future protocols such as iSCSI, which aims to transfer block-level SCSI data over IP.
The IPStor software also works with HTTP, Windows NT/2000's Common Internet File System and Unix's Network File System.
In an IPStor-enabled network, storage that is attached directly to the server is relocated to the IPStor server, which features any combination of 10M, 100M and 1G bit/sec Ethernet connections. Other storage devices can access the IPStor server via SSA, SCSI, Fibre Channel, Ethernet or iSCSI.
Users request data from a Windows NT or Unix file server outfitted with FalconStor agent software. That server sees the IPStor server as just another storage device and relies on it to manage the exchange of data over the network.
Vendors are moving aggressively to handle such data exchanges, given that the amount of data being stored on nets is skyrocketing. Market research firm International Data Corp. says server storage will boom from 205,000 terabytes in 1999 to 1.3 million terabytes next year - a better-than fivefold increase over that period.
Vendors such as Nishan Systems Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. are readying IP storage switches and routers that will allow the transport of SCSI data and file-oriented data over IP networks. Sources say these companies have no immediate plans to add virtualization - that is, the ability to combine physical storage devices into logical pools - to these products.
Similarly, StorageApps SA and StoreAge Computer Corp. offer data virtualization products but not switches or routers.
One company giving IPStor a shot is Measurisk, a new application service provider in New York.
"We are trying to move away from direct-attached storage because most of the high-density, rack-mounted 1U servers we are installing don't even have the option of server-attached storage," says beta-tester Craig Vogel, director of infrastructure. "We also still want to use IP, as it prevents us from having to learn about Fibre Channel to install storage in a SAN configuration."
"Now we can get the same performance over IP for our data as we would over Fibre Channel," says Vogel, who has laid Category 5 unshielded twisted-pair wiring instead of fiber-optic cables for his Gigabit Ethernet backbone.
"IPStor obviates the need for us to get into fiber," he says. "Being able to implement a technology immediately without reworking anything is a big plus."
FalconStor will supply customers with browser-based IPStor Manager software to manage their storage nets from anywhere on the network. The software will support active-active failover, replication of data and snapshot backups to disks or tapes. IPStor Manager discovers all storage devices on a net and can forward statistics to management platforms from Computer Associates, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Tivoli Systems Inc.
The basic software will ship in April and start at US$10,000; optional programs to support mirroring, snapshots and replication, will start at $2,000.