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Cloud Startups Look to Fill a Void

By Randy George, InformationWeek, October 23, 2008 10:40 AM

Early storage service success stories include Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Windows Live SkyDrive, Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)'s Upline, and Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN)'s Simple Storage Service. While each illustrates the potential of cloud storage, all share one thing in common: None is appropriate for enterprise-class storage. Another manifestation of cloud storage is online backup, with players from the grandpappy of records managers, Iron Mountain Inc. (NYSE: IRM), to startups looking to grab a piece of this market. But while these backup vendors meet some niche needs for IT, such as outsourced FTP services or client backup repositories, again, none is appropriate for comprehensive enterprise archiving and backup.

There's a clear void to be filled here, and where there's an underserved business need lately, there's been an agile startup or two to fill it. We recently profiled one such company, ParaScale Inc. , that's moving in to serve the expanding Tier 2 storage market. ParaScale sells the type of software that's the magic behind many of the consumer and enterprise file storage offerings on the market today. Also previewed was an innovative cloud storage startup, Nirvanix Inc. What's unique about ParaScale and Nirvanix? They're among the first viable threats to everyone selling name-brand bare-metal archiving and network-attached storage systems. Value shoppers now have real options.

The ParaScale Cloud Storage, or PCS, software enables companies to put the direct-attached storage sitting inside their commodity servers to work as a clustered NAS system that can be deployed as a public or private storage cloud. The PCS software is in open trial now, and the company is well capitalized as it nears full commercial launch.

The PCS software installs on top of Linux and turns all direct-attached storage into a large storage pool. A ParaScale cloud requires at least one controller node working in tandem with several storage nodes. As additional storage nodes are brought online, their capacity is automatically pooled and added to the collective. Management of the storage cloud is done via a Web-based tool. If an individual drive or storage node fails, access to data is redirected by the controller node to the remaining storage nodes that contain the data. IT can define the level of redundancy, just as with RAID setups, and be alerted to failed drives via SNMP. ParaScale says the PCS software will be priced in the $1-per-gigabyte range with 24/7 support offered.

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