Startup seeks to win a place in the data center through faster file migration

December 16, 2006

4 Min Read
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Moonwalk, an Australian company that sprung up to fill a specific need in the data center, is looking to make it as a broad data migration player.

Moonwalk -- the name of the software as well as the company -- migrates unstructured data, setting policies for moving seldom accessed or unusually large files off primary storage to secondary storage. That's hardly unique: Arikivio, CaminoSoft, Enigma Data, and SevenTen do that.

Moonwalk CEO Peter Harvey says the difference is Moonwalk does it without middleware. It streams files from server to server. Like competitors, Moonwalk leaves a stub on the main server when it moves a file. But Harvey says if the Moonwalk stub gets corrupted or removed, the software re-creates it on the fly.

"One weakness of stubbing technology is having the middleware," he says. "If you lose a stub, you're stuck. Recreating your file without a stub is a nightmare. We've got a streaming technology that doesn't stage."

Analyst Brad O'Neill of the Taneja Group says Moonwalk's software behaves as in a peer-to-peer network, which lets devices share bandwidth and processing power, in contrast to the point-to-point network approach with a central server."A typical file transfer uses direct movement from file to target, it's a point-to-point relationship," he says. "These guys let files behave like objects. You can have a direct movement from source to target. That makes it faster and more scalable."

Moonwalk was created in 2002 specifically to migrate Novell NetWare files across tiers of storage. The vendor added support for native Windows files in April, although the product was still known only to a handful of early adopters.

Moonwalk quietly forged partnerships with EMC and Sun, gaining certification to move files to their archiving systems. Now Harvey is trying to launch his company by building up a sales channel in the United Sates, U.K., and Germany, and forging OEM deals. He will likely seek a first round of VC funding soon to market the software and grow the ten-person company, after making do so far on a strategic investment from Australian IT outsourcer Dialog and private investors.

The company also has a handful of customers, including the Contoller's Office at Stanford University, the Twinings tea company in London, and The iCapture Centre, a heart and lung research center at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, B.C.

Joe Comeau, IS manager for the iCapture Center, says he's implementing Moonwalk after a six-month testing period. He uses Moonwalk to archive and restore data from his center's digital microscopes to a four-node clustered Xiotech SAN and IBM tape library.He says before Moonwalk, the lab researchers could not access files off the tape archive. They would have to go to IT to restore the files. So he began archiving on CD and DVD, but there were thousands of disks with data that users had to go through to find files. Comeau found discs often were lost, mislabeled, and hard to index.

Running Moonwalk allows his researchers to call up files themselves without needing IT or having to go through optical storage or buy disk. They click the files on the Web-based interface and often don't know the data has been moved off to tape.

"We keep data and want to analyze it again and again and again," he says. "It has to be pulled back by a researcher or a student, not an admin. They click on a stub file, and Moonwalk pulls the files back. It's lightening fast."

Comeau says it took a bit of time for him to get his arms around the technology, but once it was installed it was easy for his users.

"It takes a little bit of understanding, a lot of reading and documenting and planning," he says. "But once you set it up, it works quite well. We're impressed with it." He also says Moonwalk was considerably cheaper than CaminoSoft, which is probably the most popular choice for migrating NetWare files.Harvey hasn't released pricing info, except to say Moonwalk customers pay a yearly subscription depending on the number of users or servers.

Harvey was working with Dialog four years ago when he stumbled upon what he saw as a good idea for a company. "We kept falling over an opportunity," he says. "Big companies kept asking, 'You have anything to manage Netware files?' "

He started his own company, got funding from Dialog, and set out to develop software to solve the NetWare problem -- but not only the NetWare problem. "We had the luxury of sitting down with a blank piece of paper," he says.

Harvey says the company's name has nothing to do with making data dance like a certain one-gloved entertainer

"At first, we called the company the Data Management Company, and the product was Data Migrator," he says. "That was really boring. Moonwalk just floated out of the sky. It's new technology, the first step. I didn't even think of Michael Jackson."Dave Raffo, News Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Arkivio Inc.

  • CaminoSoft Corp. (OTC: CMSF)

  • Dialog

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Enigma Data Solutions Ltd.

  • Moonwalk Inc.

  • Seven Ten Storage Software Inc.

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • Taneja Group

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