Australians Moonwalk ILM to the USA

Australian sowftare developer Moonwalk has taken its information lifecycle managemnt products to the USA.

Moonwalk's products were originally developed to move NetWare files but now support all the major operating systems on its host-based file management agents. The company officially announced this week that version 6.0 of its self-titled hierarchical storage management (HSM) product is available for the first time on the U.S market.

Each of Moonwalk's agents is managed by a policy management console the company has nicknamed Eagle, which pushes out agents to servers at the initial installation and keeps track of the policies users must set up to move files. Once migrations are completed, the product leaves stub files behind on the original device so that the file seems untouched to the end user.

Migration policies can be applied to different groups of hosts and can be "layered," so that a user can set up different policies. For example, applying to all Windows servers, as well as all Windows servers running a certain application, without conflict. The value proposition here is that in large environments, the host-based approach cuts out middleware and appliances that can be a throughput bottleneck.

Moonwalk's CEO, Peter Harvey, said there hasn't been much pushback from end users about agents, since their installation can be done remotely and doesn't require a reboot. "Our agents are light as well -- for NetWare it's one megabyte and for Windows it's between four or five megabytes." The product can get a little clunky when it comes to using it with virtual servers, as the company recommends an agent for each virtual host.

However, Moonwalk argues the host-based approach is what allows it to support heterogeneous storage on the back end. "As long as it's got a file system, we don't care who makes it," Harvey said.

"We initially set off to find [a product for] email archiving and stumbled across Moonwalk to solve our file storage problems," wrote one Moonwalk user, Martin Attfield, technical project manager for U.K.-based tea company R. Twining & Co Ltd., in an email to "Moonwalk...allowed us to cap the capacity that was on expensive disks and move over 1 million historical files offline without our IT customers even noticing a change." Attfield also said Twining hasn't had to add disk storage for file systems to its EMC Corp. Symmetrix arrays since that initial migration in 2005, even though end users have since used about three times their original allocation for files.

The product is also working with an often complex mix of Unix, Novell and Microsoft servers, according to Attfield. "We have a four-node NetWare Cluster with the data synchronized with a Windows volume in a different data center, and we are able to Moonwalk both sets of data to an EMC Centera cluster as single-instance storage," he wrote. "We've thrown a number of challenges to Moonwalk support, and they are always very helpful and fairly quick at producing fixes."

According to analysts, the product looks good, on paper anyway. "ESG believes that organizations will archive over 43,000 petabytes (PB) of unstructured file system information in the next four years," said Mark Bowker, analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) -- so there is a market opportunity, and the product could be valuable there, he said.

He pointed out that the product does not address structured and semistructured content types. At least one Moonwalk competitor, Nirvana Storage, addresses all data types with its software). "IT organizations that have broad information lifecycle management (ILM) initiatives will look for products that manage all data types throughout their lifecycle."

And it remains to be seen at this point what OEMs and resellers will be looking for, according to Greg Schulz, founder and analyst with the StorageIO Group. "The challenge with host-based, nonmiddleware or appliance-based HSM in the past on open systems has been the instability and complexity associated with scaling," Schulz wrote to SearchStorage in an email. "Key for Moonwalk will be to establish some...reseller and OEM partnerships...and...demonstrate to customers and partners their ability to scale without introducing instability with regard to performance or increased management complexity."

Read more on Data quality management and governance