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FalconStor once again featured in the hands-on lab at VMworld 2011 (Las Vegas) Featured

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For the 3rd year in a row, VMware has given us the honors by hosting their Site Recovery Manager (SRM) Hands-on-lab (HOL) using our own FalconStor Storage Replication Adapter (SRA) for SRM, and our FalconStor Network Storage Server Virtual Appliance (NSS VA), which is a VMware-certified Storage Virtual Appliance for vSphere v4.1 and v5.0. 

The VMware HCL listing for our NSS VA can be viewed here:

http://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/detail.php?deviceCategory=san&productid=19502

While this lab was powered by "VMware Lab Manager" in previous years, this time around, I have worked with my VMware buddies to get our NSS VA, and the rest of the SRM lab virtual machines, exported into vCloud Director v1.5!  Just like Lab Manager, vCloud Director now support linked clones, among other important features, which allows the SRM lab environment to be cloned and configured multiple times, quickly, and without consuming the actual amount of storage space that would normally be required. But I am digressing here.

What's so significant about our presence in the SRM HOL lab is that we had to develop our new SRA while SRM 5.0 was still beta.  In fact, SRM 5.0 was not actually released (GA) until well after the VMworld show in Vegas was over.  On the other hand, our FalconStor SRA for SRM 5.0 actually obtained VMware HCL certification status before the show even started.  Credit goes to our engineering team for working around the clock for the past several months, and for forming a close relationship with the VMware SRM engineering team in order to mutually help each other in the development of their respective components of the solution.  Thank you guys!

What makes our SRA so unique, is that it interfaces not only with our NSS VA (SVA-certified on VMware's HCL), our NSS Gateway (SVD-certified on VMware's HCL), and our NSS SA and NSS VS storage arrays (Fibre Channel and iSCSI Certified arrays on VMware's HCL).  Our single SRA can allow customers to leverage SRM to automate remote Disaster Recovery (DR) of SMB sites with our NSS VA, departmental sites with our NSS SA or NSS VS, and datacenters with our NSS or CDP Gateways.  The protected site can use any one of our products, and the recovery site can use any other one of our products.  It's like comparing apples to oranges!  To go further in this comparison, our SDV-certified NSS/CDP Gateways allows heterogenous storage environments to be protected and replicated across sites, with each site using completely different SAN arrays.  Yes, you could indeed use an EMC Clariion at the protected site for your SAN (ie. using the FC protocol), and use a Dell Equalogic array at the recovery site (ie.using the iSCSI protocol).  This makes us quite unique, because no other storage array vendor will allow you to replicate data across datacenters with a different array brand or model at the target site, and even less so using a different protocol!

What about replication?  Why is it so important to use a WAN-optimized storage replication technology, like "FalconStor Replication with Microscan Technology?"  VMware itself has acknolwedged that array-based replication techonologies provided better performance and efficiencies that their own "Host-based replication" (HBR).  HBR is great for its purpose, because it allows VM's to be selectively replicated across sites, regardless of the type of storage used!  This is ideally suited for small sites, where bandwidth (uplink) may be limited, and because of the greater overhead introduced by VMware's HBR replication stack sitting on top of the VMkernel, and below the vSCSI layers.  But once you start to protect larger environments, with 15-20 VM's or more, and you consider the larger amount of data that needs to be synchronized and sent across sites, you quickly realize that either your Recovery Point Objective (RPO) is going to start to take a toll, or that you are going to spend thousands of dollars more per month to lease a bigger line for replication.  Enter our Microscan technology, and the ability to reduce the amount of data to be replicated by up to 98% for Datastores hosting data and log files from database applications such as Exchange, SQL, and Oracle.  Within weeks, your return on investment is achieved, and your RPO is immediately improved.  There is no need to replace your existing SAN infrastructure, and FalconStor replication completely offloads the changed-block tracking and replication process away from vSphere hosts, saving precious CPU/RAM and IO resources for actual production computing, and not wasted in inefficient backend backup/DR processes.

What about recovery time? Your recovery time objective (RTO), especially when SRM is executing a Recover Plan for a Protection Group containing VMs hosting tier-1 database applications, will be heavily affected by the quality/state of the .vmdk disk images (or Raw Disks) being attached to the DR vSphere hosts.  SRM will quickly power on the VM's, and the heartbeat of each VM's will come up online within minutes, but OS recovery is only half (or less) of the full story.  An Exchange datastore several hundred gigabytes in size may not mount cleanly, and a eseutil command may need to be executed, scanning the jetstore database for several hours, before the application is fully recovered.  This is the kind of situation you want to avoid at all costs, especially for tier-1 apps.  Our SRA coordinates with both our NSS replication/snapshot engine, and vCenter, to allow database application to quiesce prior to the start of a scheduled replication.  The end result is that every VM powers on as if it was restored from a clean backup copy, not a crash-consistent image, dramatically improving the RTO for all SRM Recovery Plans.

If we let numbers speak for themselves, the SRM lab was a big hit in the HOL room of VMworld at Las Vegas.  Out of the 27 available labs, the SRM lab came in #3 on the leader board for total students taking the lab.   VMware demonstrated SRM and specifically SRM 5.0 using FalconStor NSS VA and FalconStor SRA to 1307 attendees.  This means over 2600 NSSVA appliances were deployed by vCloud Director over the course of the five days the labs were open.  And as quoted by the owner of this lab environment (thank you Joe for providing the numbers!): "Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive."

Thank you to those of you who were lucky enough to make it to Las Vegas and attend the SRM HOL!  And for those planning to attend VMworld Europe in Copenhagen next month, be sure to come and try out the new SRM 5.0 lab, or stop by our booth to discuss how we can help you implement a cost-effective DR solution for your SOHO, SMB, and datacenter sites.
FalconStor Marketing Team

FalconStor Marketing Team

FalconStor Marketing Team

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