Cloud-Attached Storage?

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

Howard Marks

January 15, 2009

2 Min Read
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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.CTERA's planning to go to market through managed and Internet service providers, which will both sell the devices and storage services including a portal service to Amazon's S3. As a result, CTERA has been coy with price and availability -- except to say it will be available sometime this year.

When CTERA comes up with 4-bay devices with hardware RAID, corporate data managers might start thinking about installing a SAN-attached portal server in their own data centers and CTERA cloud-attached NASes in their branch offices.

— Howard Marks is chief scientist at Networks Are Our Lives Inc., a Hoboken, N.J.-based consultancy where he's been beating storage network systems into submission and writing about it in computer magazines since 1987. He currently writes for InformationWeek, which is published by the same company as Byte and Switch.

About the Author(s)

Howard Marks

Network Computing Blogger

Howard Marks</strong>&nbsp;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 systems, networks, management systems and Internet strategies at organizations including American Express, J.P. Morgan, Borden Foods, U.S. Tobacco, BBDO Worldwide, Foxwoods Resort Casino and the State University of New York at Purchase. The testing at DeepStorage Labs is informed by that real world experience.</p><p>He has been a frequent contributor to <em>Network Computing</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>InformationWeek</em>&nbsp;since 1999 and a speaker at industry conferences including Comnet, PC Expo, Interop and Microsoft's TechEd since 1990. He is the author of&nbsp;<em>Networking Windows</em>&nbsp;and co-author of&nbsp;<em>Windows NT Unleashed</em>&nbsp;(Sams).</p><p>He is co-host, with Ray Lucchesi of the monthly Greybeards on Storage podcast where the voices of experience discuss the latest issues in the storage world with industry leaders.&nbsp; You can find the podcast at:

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