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Panasas Pins Future on Unproven Spec

Startup treads tightrope, building a NAS system based on a developing standard UPDATED 7/13 2:15pm EST

Pittsburgh Advanced Network Attached Storage, or Panasas Inc. for short, says it's developing a next-generation file system to blow the socks off todays technology. But it faces a challenge: The success (or otherwise) of its goal rides on the adoption of a new standard that pretty much the entire storage industry must adopt for the Panasas technology to fly.

Still operating in cloak-and-dagger mode, Panasas has nonetheless revealed the bare bones of its plans to Byte and Switch.

The company name (paNASas) is a big giveaway; as are its close ties to Carnegie Mellon University and its recent hiring of Varun Mehta, former chief software engineer at Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP). They all spell [ed.note: ha ha] a company focused on network-attached storage.

Carnegie Mellon University, just down the road from Panasas offices in Pittsburgh, has a storage system research center packed with engineers working on supercomputing, clustering, robots, and projects for NASA. A select group of them are also tinkering away on a potential standard for storage networking that could revolutionize the way storage is managed on a network, Panasas claims.

Several of these engineers are now holed-up at Panasas but remain closely connected to the work going on at the university. The standard, known as object SCSI device interface (OSD), allows for disk storage to be expanded on the fly simply by plugging in more drives. This is a major advance on the way it’s done today.

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