InfoWorld review: Data deduplication appliances

Data deduplication appliances from FalconStor, NetApp, and Spectra Logic provide excellent data reduction for production storage, disk-based backups, and virtual tape

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Over the course of my tests, I ran multiple daily backups of the five Windows servers without any issues. Unlike the NetApp FAS2040, the FDS had no problems deduping my Backup Exec backup sets. Typical file and folder deduplication was very efficient, providing nearly a 90 percent reduction on highly duplicated data. The backup sets were "full system backups," including Windows, installed applications, and Microsoft Exchange data stores. A mix of some Microsoft Word and Excel files rounded out the set. I saw virtually no difference in deduplication performance whether just a collection of files or the Backup Exec archives.

There are two choices for when to dedupe the data: on a scheduled basis or in real time (as the data is written to the disk). I set up a nightly scheduled deduplication pass, and it ran without any issues. I also was able to run manual dedupe passes when I wanted to check deduplication results immediately. The real-time deduplication policy, which analyzes the data as it is written to the device, serves to keep the data shares as deduped as possible. There is a small performance penalty when deduping in real time, but in my tests it was negligible. No matter what the deduplication needs, FalconStor will let you define a policy that fits.

I tried to fool the deduplication engine by renaming files and folders and changing extensions, but as with the other appliances, regardless of what I tried, the deduplication engine always found the duplicate blocks and either added them to the hash table or removed them to reduce overall data size. Because the deduplication engine works at the block level, it looks past such details as file name and type and correctly analyzed the file structure for the duplicate data. Regardless of the type of file -- PDF, Word document, ZIP archive, and so on -- the dedupe engine ferreted out the duplicate blocks like a champ.

FalconStor's management interface, which is virtually identical to Spectra Logic's, was easy to navigate once I became familiar with the organization of the UI. While it's not as intuitive as NetApp's System Manager, I had little trouble creating file shares, defining deduplication policy, and monitoring the health and performance of the system. I was able to easily view reports on storage usage, amount of deduped data, and percentage of storage reclaimed by deduplication. These reports will help IT keep tabs on overall storage usage and deduplication performance.

The FalconStor FDS 304 is a solid piece of network engineering and proved to be more than effective in storing data and detecting duplicate blocks of information. It makes an excellent target for disk-based backups and general file sharing. I liked the ease-of-use when creating CIFS shares, as well as the ability to serve as an iSCSI target and to export NFS shares offers a good deal of flexibility. While the reporting system isn't anything to get excited about, it does provide enough feedback on the health of the appliance to keep IT well informed.

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The dashboard in the FalconStor FDS console provides an at-a-glance overview of disk usage trends.
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