Moonwalk Enters Backup Arena

Startup says enhancements broaden backup-and-recovery capabilities

August 28, 2007

4 Min Read
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Startup Moonwalk has tweaked its software to amplify its claims as a do-all data protection tool. (See Moonwalk Adds New Capability.)

"We found there's been a lot of interest in our product for backup and fast reacquisition of data," says CEO Peter Harvey. "We remove the need to rebuild and restore."

Harvey's cagey on the specifics of this upgrade, but his point is clear: Moonwalk can be used not just to migrate data from one server to another, but to back up files and then replace them after an outage.

To review, Moonwalk enables servers to move unstructured files from one place to another in Windows, Unix, Linux, or Netware environments, without requiring middleware or extra backup or replication software. Moonwalk achieves this in part by using stubs in place of actual files and using agents on servers and desktops to coordinate stubs' movements in a network. Rules can work on a many-to-one, one-to-one, or one-to-many basis.

While agent software has been criticized in many quarters as a client-side burden, Moonwalk insists its agents keep a low profile at 1 Mbyte to 4 Mbytes. Agents have integral NFS capabilities, which are activated by rules and policies associated with words like "copy," "move," and "migrate.""You create associations [between objects] by creating a rule," Harvey told Byte and Switch in an interview last spring. "When a rule moves a file it leaves a stub. There's a one-to-one relationship between stub and file. They know all about each other and they are two abstract objects. The agent is light and sleeps and wakes when it's told to do something."

Moonwalk has been slowly but steadily building its backup and archiving story for the last six months, a period during which it claims to have nearly doubled its customer base to over 30 takers.

The Australia-based startup opened in the U.S. back in March, advertising its wares as an easy way to move data from one tier of storage to another. A month later, news came that the software had been enhanced with disaster recovery capabilities. If a stub is destroyed in one place, it can be revived in another. There was an archiving angle in the April release as well: One customer, Stanford University's Controller's Office, claimed to have replaced its tape backup completely with Moonwalk.

Now, shortly after opening a U.K. office and enlisting a roster of U.S. and U.K. channel partners, Harvey insists the software has been upgraded yet again to facilitate rapid recovery time objectives.

The recent enhancements to Moonwalk appear to be minor and arcane. Apparently, there's been some slight expansion of the product's rules engine to allow more information to be added to a data migration command. The result is that it's possible to do more than just copy files. It's now possible to copy their attributes, and to do so quickly and with less overhead than traditional backup and replication tools.At least one analyst praises Moonwalk's approach. "In most organizations the recovery of unstructured content is a tedious process that involves retrieving data from storage media through a backup application," states analyst Lauren Whitehouse of the Enterprise Strategy Group in Moonwalk's prepared statement today. "Moonwalk-style protection is differentiated by providing rapid reacquisition of data with minimal IT intervention if any."

One customer, British tea company Twining & Co. Ltd., is ready to test Moonwalk's new claims. Martin Attfield, information systems manager at the company's data center, says his team uses 40 percent less disk space on archiving than it did prior to deploying Moonwalk a couple of years ago. Now that the company plans to migrate its stored files from NetWare to Windows, they'll use Moonwalk to get the job done. According to Attfield, the vendor has said it will help achieve the move in one week instead of five.

"They are going to translate not only all the Novell files into Windows, but the permissions for directories into Windows," Attfield says. "By the end of this week, we should have our new system up and running."

So Moonwalk's aiming to replace backup and archiving solutions with its easy-to-use agents. The pitch may have been gradual, but it's upon us now.

The startup's claims to perform backup and recovery faster than other replication or backup packages puts it in competition with a slew of vendors, including Arkivio, CommVault, Double-Take, IBM (via its Softek and DataMirror acquisisions), and others. Indeed, it may find itself in coopetition with various partners with which it has certifications or development agreements, including Caringo, EMC, HP, Microsoft, Novell, and Sun.Unlike some of these vendors, Moonwalk only deals in files. But so far, it seems to have carved a niche for itself. We may hear of more installations for backup and recovery over the next few months.

  • Arkivio Inc.

  • Caringo

  • CommVault Systems Inc.

  • Double-Take Software Inc. (Nasdaq: DBTK)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Moonwalk Inc.

  • Novell Inc. (Nasdaq: NOVL)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc.

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