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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FalconStor FDS 300
Intended to be the target of disk-to-disk backup and archiving applications, the FalconStor FDS (File-interface Deduplication System) appliances provide a solid mix of performance, data replication, and deduplication while integrating seamlessly into the data center. Serving as a target for CIFS, NFS, and Symantec OpenStorage (OST), FDS doesn't require any network reengineering in order to integrate it into an existing environment. It has a flexible deduplication policy engine to allow IT to control if and when deduplication can occur and can even exclude folders from deduplication if necessary. Overall deduplication performance was statistically identical to Spectra Logic, which is no surprise considering that Spectra Logic licenses FalconStor's deduplication engine.

For this roundup, I received the FDS 304 2U chassis loaded up with 4TB of hot-plug SATA RAID 6 disk storage, expandable to a maximum of 32TB through additional storage enclosures. It comes standard with four 1GB Ethernet interfaces and (via two expansion slots) can add more gigabit interfaces (four-port expansion card) or a single-port 10Gb Ethernet interface. This chassis, like all chassis in the FDS family, will connect to the LAN via gigabit and 10Gb Ethernet interfaces, as well as act as an iSCSI target. Like the other appliances, it also includes dual hot-plug power supplies. There are three other models of the FDS 300, scaling to a capacity of 18TB of in-chassis storage, topping out at a maximum of 32TB using external enclosures.

There is a preconfigured virtual version of FalconStor's FDS appliance that runs on VMware ESX/ESXi 3.5 update 4 and vSphere 4; it also provides remote offices with a way to utilize data deduplication without requiring an additional piece of hardware. The virtual FDS is available in both 1TB and 2TB versions and makes it easy to bring deduplication to remote or branch offices.

The core use-case scenario for the FDS 304 is as a target for disk-based storage and backup systems. While FalconStor does offer VTL appliances, the FDS family is intended to be used as a file share for CIFS and NFS clients on the network. It is also meant to take the place of traditional tape-based backup systems. The FDS family comes with Symantec NetBackup OST support to allow tight integration between NetBackup -- or other OST-aware products -- and the appliance. While I did not test using NetBackup, FalconStor claims up to 500MBps maximum inbound speed using OST over 10Gb Ethernet.

I integrated the FDS 304 into my test bed as both a backup destination and CIFS file share. While I could have mounted data shares on the FDS as local storage using iSCSI, I decided to map a drive letter to the various shares from a Windows Server 2008 R2 box and my four virtual Windows 2008 R2 servers. I had no trouble manipulating files on the various shares from any of my servers -- each share behaved just as a typical Windows share would. I also used another share as a backup target for Symantec Backup Exec.

Using FalconStor's FDS management utility, IT can quickly access how much data is stored on the chassis and how much data has been deduplicated.
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