Actifio aims to create order in data management

The startup's software suite can control backup, replication, archiving and other tasks

The fast-growing stores of information in many enterprises have made a variety of data management tools necessary, but those many components are starting to come together.

Actifio, a startup that has already sold its platform to a few customers, has built a suite of software that the company said can manage data from nearly all applications in most OS environments and across storage arrays from all major vendors. The software becomes generally available on Tuesday. It can control how an organization's IT infrastructure stores, copies, moves and restores the data that applications generate, based on service-level agreements set by administrators for each application, Actifio said.

The platform starts with software running on two clustered servers. That cluster can scale up to eight servers, managing eight petabytes of data, and a customer can deploy multiple clusters. The software centralizes tasks that typically are carried out by five to eight different tools, said Ash Ashutosh, co-founder and CEO of Actifio. Instead of letting all those applications make their own copies of data, Actifio by itself takes on the tasks of replicating data, backing it up, creating periodic snapshots and sending copies to remote sites, as administrators designate, Ashutosh said. It carries out deduplication for all copies made.

Actifio calls its technology "data management virtualization," because it operates independent of the many storage platforms an organization may have.

"We decouple the management of data from where it's stored," Ashutosh said.

Actifio's software suite consists of three products, with an upgrade path for adding components. Actifio DP is a data protection application, Actifio DR is for disaster recovery and Actifio BC is for business continuity.

The company aims at nothing less than conquering what it calls the last frontier of virtualization, now that servers and many aspects of networks already can be virtualized. Though Ashutosh said Actifio is aiming at small and medium-sized customers, the company defines size in terms of storage requirements and is actually aiming fairly high. Its system is designed for organizations with as much as 800 terabytes of application data, not counting backups and archives, and as many as 12 storage administrators.

Ashutosh, a former chief technologist of Hewlett-Packard's StorageWorks division, co-founded Actifio about a year ago. The company entered a market crowded with various data-center management platforms. However, the package of capabilities in Actifio is fairly new, said Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Lauren Whitehouse.

Organizations both large and small are looking for ways to simplify data management, particularly where the amount of data they have is growing rapidly, Whitehouse said. Currently, many have separate mechanisms for replication, snapshots, backup and disaster recovery.

"These guys are just simplifying how copies of data get made and moved around," Whitehouse said. But that move has broad implications for IT operations, including savings of space, power and staff time currently devoted to multiple systems, she said.

Actifio's ability to work with multiple brands of storage is another benefit, Whitehouse said. Though some storage vendors such as NetApp have consolidated storage management capabilities, their reach often is limited to their own hardware, she said. "Now, you can consolidate the storage into one logical view." FalconStor is one other company that is approaching the same problem with a fairly open approach, Whitehouse noted.

Actifio's software is available now. It has emerged from a beta test that began in April, and the company said it already has a handful of commercial customers. List prices start at US$200,000 for a configuration with Actifio DP that can manage 5T bytes of data. The price goes up if the customer adds software components or manages more data.

Though Actifio is not yet targeting its product at the largest companies, Whitehouse sees no limit to the enterprises that might benefit from its simplification.

"I don't hear many companies, large or small, that say, 'Yeah, we've got it all figured out,'" Whitehouse said.

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