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FalconStor Software launches FreeStor storage virtualization platform

FreeStor integrates FalconStor point products in a software-defined platform with pricing based on consumed storage.

FalconStor Software Inc. this week launched its FreeStor storage virtualization and data protection software, bundling unified data services for a single subscription price based on consumed storage.

FreeStor marks the first major upgrade to FalconStor's storage software in nearly five years. It integrates FalconStor's individual point products for data migration, continuous availability, protection and recovery, and inline data deduplication.

FreeStor virtualizes network-connected storage and comes as a hardware appliance or software-only installation for x86-based storage servers.

The platform is designed to work across disparate storage arrays and hypervisors to move workloads between on-premises and cloud storage. General availability is slated for May 6 through FalconStor channel partners. Pricing has not been disclosed.

Part of FalconStor's strategy is to sell FreeStor through partnerships with flash array vendors and hybrid cloud providers.

Born out of collaboration with all-flash array vendor

FreeStor software is the byproduct of a joint development agreement between FalconStor Software and all-flash array vendor Violin Memory. FalconStor received $12 million as part of the deal to develop privately labeled data management software for managing data services on Violin arrays.

FreeStor incorporates upgraded versions of FalconStor's Network Storage Server, Continuous Data Protector, RecoverTrac, and Optimized Backup and Deduplication products. 

Customers can turn services off and on as needed and pay only for the terabytes of capacity managed by FreeStor.

"We only charge them for the capacity they pull into a FreeStor layer, not the raw capacity on a storage array. That gives users a predictable pricing model," said Tim Sheets, FalconStor vice president of marketing.

FalconStor will continue selling the point products, but FreeStor will drive the product roadmap, CEO Gary Quinn said.

"We are trying to reposition ourselves in the software-defined storage space. FalconStor historically has been hardware-agnostic. We want to solidify that [position] by offering all our services in a single platform," he said.

"We believe we possess an enterprise-class portfolio that doesn't tie businesses to a specific hardware network or protocol," Quinn said.

FreeStor consists of the FreeStor Management Server centralized database, FreeStor Storage Servers and the FreeStor Global Dedupe Repository. The FreeStor Management Server handles storage virtualization through FalconStor's branded Intelligent Abstraction hypervisor. Storage administrators can use the FreeStor GUI from any browser, smartphone or tablet.

The platform scales to 128 FreeStor Storage Servers in two-node or four-node configurations. Clustered nodes can be deployed on a local network, metro clusters or stretched across a WAN for geographic distribution for backup and recovery. FalconStor claims a two-node configuration is rated to provide up to 1 million IOPS.

The high-availability redesign includes active-active I/O clusters and replaces a programming language interface with REST APIs to enable cloud providers to publish FreeStor in their management consoles.

Can FalconStor be saved?

FreeStor could be FalconStor's last chance to reverse a long revenue slide. FalconStor's 2014 revenue of $46.3 million declined 21% from $58.6 million in 2013 and is down considerably from its high of $89.5 million in 2009. FalconStor was looking for a buyer when Quinn became CEO in 2013, but found little interest and Quinn decided to try to turn the company around instead.

Marc Staimer, senior analyst at Dragon Slayer Consulting, said FalconStor is trying to turn the page. It has cleaned up the wonky script that plagued earlier versions of the software, he said.

"They really went over it with a fine-toothed comb and made the code solid. The second thing they did was to let it be used on white-box reference hardware, which is a change. In the past, you could only buy [FalconStor software] on their hardware," Staimer said.

FreeStor puts databases in a quiescent state before taking application-consistent snapshots. Most backup software provides crash-consistent snapshots for rapid recovery, but that can lead to corruption if writes are not completed in the correct sequence.

"I think this is where FalconStor has a real niche -- it is providing software-defined storage and software-defined data protection," Staimer said.

Quinn said the initial release supports inline deduplication for block-based storage. Roadmap items include file-based dedupe and support for FreeStor Server configurations up to 16 nodes.

Next Steps

FalconStor stops seeking acquisition opportunities

FalconStor Software upgrades RecoverTrac DR technology

FalconStor CEO discusses future of FreeStor

Dig Deeper on Storage virtualization