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Actifio launches disaster recovery appliances

Actifio emerges from stealth mode with appliances for managing data protection, disaster recovery and business continuity in VMware environments; the startup's challenge is to convince customers to change the way they manage data on virtual machines.

Actifio Inc. is coming out of stealth this week with appliances aimed at managing data and enabling disaster recovery in virtual server environments.

On Tuesday, Actifio will launch Actifio DP for data protection, Actifio DR for disaster recovery and Actifio BC for business continuity. Actifio's founder and CEO Ash Ashutosh claims the startup's technology decouples data management from the underlying storage infrastructure to make the process simpler and less expensive.

Actifio DP handles local and operational data recovery, Actifio DR uses offsite replication to protect primary data, and Actifio BC uses bidirectional replication across two sites. Ashutosh said Actifio's products combine data deduplication and compression to reduce bandwidth required to replicate data. He expects the disaster recovery appliance Actifio DR to become the flagship product, helping customers deploy VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) by reducing their bandwidth requirements and eliminating primary storage vendor lock-in.

Ashutosh said Actifio virtualizes any vendor's physical storage resources by using what Actifio calls a VirtualData Pipeline. The VirtualData Pipeline manages the data lifecycle with only one core copy of the data. "[It's] a single engine that copies, moves, stores and restores, and does it much more efficiently using the underlying virtualized and optimized infrastructure," Ashutosh said. "What we tried to do was take this entire infrastructure optimization and make it dead simple."

Ashutosh sold his last startup, AppIQ, to Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. The AppIQ technology became HP's Storage Essentials product line. Ashutosh was vice president and chief technologist of HP's StorageWorks division before starting Actifio.

The Actifio appliances are x86 white box servers that can scale to eight servers per cluster. The base configuration of two appliances, 5 TB of storage and the three applications starts at around $200,000. Pricing is based on the amount of protected data. Ashutosh said small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the startup's primary market.

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Jeff Boles, a senior analyst and director of validation services for the Taneja Group consulting firm, said he sees "genuine benefits" from using Actifio but the startup faces hurdles in getting off the ground.

"[Virtualization] is still another layer in the enterprise," Boles said. "And, ultimately, you end up buying the things underneath and you have to contend with having a duplicate layer of features. The benefits I think you get from Actifio outweigh not using those features, but given a storage industry that's relatively slow to change that's still a tremendous hurdle in front of Actifio."

According to Boles, the base configuration pricing will be a hard sell to SMEs. "This breadth of functionality in an appliance form factor without internal storage itself does become a difficult solution to sell to the SME," Boles said. "The enterprise is certainly an opportunity moving into cloud infrastructures for a lot of this breadth of functionality because it can really align storage with cloud infrastructure requirements."

Boles also said he thinks most of Actifio's initial customers will be looking to use one or two of the three applications, which will make the base configuration price even more uncomfortable. "We've seen that the industry has been slow to accept things that are this much of a departure from the traditional, albeit, complex and inefficient ways they are doing business today," he said.

Actifio isn't the first startup to try and tame data management in virtual environments. Pancetera launched Pancetera Unite two weeks ago with the initial use case of speeding backups of virtual machines for VMware customers, and Virsto Software's Virsto One targets storage management for Microsoft Hyper-V customers.


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