Best storage products of 2005


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Backup and Disaster Recovery Software

Gold: Avamar
Axion Version 3.0

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Axion Version 3.0 radically changes the way backups are done by cutting down backup sizes and bandwidth requirements.

AXION VERSION 3.0, Avamar Technologies Inc.'s disk-based backup application, is elegantly simple in theory: Back up less data. One judge hailed Axion Version 3.0 as "the most innovative product I've seen for backup and restore."

Axion creates point-in-time copies of data, but shrinks the amount of data it writes to disk by eliminating duplicates and writing only changes to already backed-up files. The underlying key technology is commonality factoring, which parses files and breaks them into chunks that can be examined individually for changes.

Version 3.0 runs on standard Intel servers, and Axion appliances can be clustered to provide failover capabilities. Version 3.0 adds new client support, including 64-bit Linux and Solaris 10, and support for Microsoft Corp.'s Volume Shadow Copy Service. Perhaps the most notable enhancement in Version 3.0 is the ability to expand Axion systems non-disruptively by adding nodes, rather than replacing them to upgrade capacity.

But it must be noted that implementing Axion requires not only a revamping of an organization's backup procedures, but a rethinking of the concept of backup. In other words, once you start down the Axion backup path, it's difficult technically to go back to a standard backup product. That said, Axion's rewards are difficult to deny, and Avamar deserves recognition for offering a new way to improve a flawed process.

Silver: XOsoft
Assured Recovery

Assured Recovery handles an expensive and time-consuming storage administration chore--testing a DR plan.

XOSOFT NABBED the top spot in this category in last year's awards, and solidifies its position as one of the top backup and recovery software vendors with a return visit to our honor roll. XOsoft's Assured Recovery builds on the company's winner from last year, its WANsyncHA remote replication application, with a new tool that monitors the health of a DR system.

Assured Recovery conducts behind-the-scenes DR testing to ensure that replica systems can come online as planned and lets a storage manager know if the application at the backup site runs properly. Because it doesn't require any server reboots or application stops and starts, it's not disruptive to production environments. Assured Recovery runs on top of XOsoft's WANsync or WANsyncHA, and is available for Exchange, Oracle and SQL Server.

The most commonly cited reasons for not conducting extensive DR testing are excessive cost and not enough time. With Assured Recovery, XOsoft endeavors to alleviate both of those burdens.

Bronze: FalconStor Software
FalconStor VirtualTape Library Version 3.1

FalconStor's latest revision of its VTL software builds on the widely used disk-based backup application.

FALCONSTOR SOFTWARE INC.'S latest revision of its popular virtual tape library (VTL) software builds on a widely implemented disk-based backup product. FalconStor garnered a silver award for its IPStor 4.0 DR application in this category two years ago. This year, the company captures a bronze for the latest incarnation of its popular FalconStor VirtualTape Library.

With ever-growing data stores, shrinking backup windows and the time-consuming process of restoring from tape, many shops are turning to disk for relief. Making a disk subsystem look like a tape library is a popular backup option. With VirtualTape Library, FalconStor integrates with and emulates dozens of tape libraries from leading vendors. VirtualTape Library also emulates nearly all popular drive types, including LTO-1, -2 and -3; DLT and SuperDLT; and 984x and 994x. It supports all major backup apps.

FalconStor's 3.1 version has widened its support by including IBM's 3583 and 3580 drives. Also new is a tape-caching feature that provides more flexibility for moving backed-up data to tape, allowing users to define policies for migrating disk-based backups to tape that maintain bar-code integrity. Policies can also tell VirtualTape Library how to re-allocate disk space when data is moved to tape.

Last summer, FalconStor added the ability to encrypt its VTL tapes and export the encrypted data to physical tapes. Users can also add FalconStor's continuous data protection option to the VTL app. FalconStor's VirtualTape Library has two versions, standard and enterprise, distinguished by their scaling limitations. The bottom line: FalconStor VirtualTape Library is a good VTL product that has gotten better.

This was first published in February 2006

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