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Howard Marks
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Cloud-Attached Storage?

CTERA devices can back up their data to a portal server running in a central data center somewhere on the Net

12:30 PM -- As if NAS, SAN, grid storage, and cloud storage werent enough, CTERA Networks Ltd. at the Consumer Electronics Show announced "cloud-attached storage", which can be best summed up as storage that backs itself up to a service provider. While today's products are best suited to the consumer or SOHO market, the concept could also be applied to small and mid-sized enterprise and remote office/branch office situations.

CloudPlug, CTERA's flagship product, generated some buzz at CES in no small part because of its innovative packaging. CloudPlug crams the brains of NAS into a white box about the size of a wall-wort transformer or PowerLine network adapter. A Gigabit Ethernet port connects it to your network and a USB 2.0 port provides the connection to user supplied external hard drives.

As one would expect for a low-end NAS, CTERA's devices are Linux based, have a Web management interface and support access via CIFS and FTP. Support for snapshots and building RAID sets out of external USB drives (hopefully just RAID 1 -- the thought of a RAID 5 set over a single USB channel makes my skin crawl) is a step up from the standard feature set for SOHO NAS.

One advantage of the USB storage is if the CloudPlug fails you can just plug the drive (formatted NTFS) into a local PC to access the data.

But built-in online backup is what really makes the CloudPlug, and CTERA's C200 two-bay appliance, special. CTERA devices can back up their data, including multiple version support, to a CTERA portal server running in a central data center somewhere on the Net. Data is of course AES encrypted before it's sent across the Net and CTERA uses compression and block-level data de-duplication to minimize network traffic.

Howard Marks is founder and chief scientist at Deepstorage LLC, a storage consultancy and independent test lab based in Santa Fe, N.M. and concentrating on storage and data center networking. In more than 25 years of consulting, Marks has designed and implemented storage ... View Full Bio
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