ParaScale Showcases Customers of Cloud Storage Platform

Startup releases software to turn Linux servers into a file storage system for internal or service provider storage clouds

March 31, 2009

4 Min Read
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Cloud storage has gotten a lot of attention in the past year. While the buzzword may be new, service providers have been providing online storage services for many years under a variety of names -- managed services, utility computing, on-demand services, and online backup. Those services appeal to small and mid-sized business with limited IT staff and to other companies looking for a remote location to store files for disaster recovery and other purposes. The more interesting aspect and newer angle to clouds is the idea of building internal clouds within an enterprise and providing storage as a service within the firewall.

Startup ParaScale released its storage software platform this week and highlighted customers that for the past six months have been testing the proposition that commodity Linux servers can be turned into a large clustered file system that can offer high performance and high storage utilization. ParaScale says the software can be used by service providers to offer storage services as well as by IT departments to build private storage clouds by linking hundreds of servers and using their storage.

Version 1.2 of ParaScale's software can be downloaded from its Website and has a list price of $1.05 per gigabyte. A version that can handle up to 4 TB is available for free.

ParaScale's beta customers range from Stanford Genome Technology Center to Sony Pictures Image Works to network security vendor Blue Coat Systems to Carpathia Hosting, a service provider.

The Stanford Genome Technology Center Stanford creates between 2 and 15 TB of genomic data each week, and much of it is discarded. It is using ParaScale's software for Tier 2 file storage. "We are always looking for affordable, practical ways to store these volumes of valuable data," Dr. Baback Gharizadeh, research associate at the Stanford Genome Technology Center, said in a statement. "Our evaluations of ParaScale's cloud storage solution lead us to believe that it has the scale and economy to handle our genomic data, and it is easy enough for our research scientists to manage."Sony has a different challenge in dealing with animation frames that are in high demand for a short period of time while a film is being created. It uses ParaScale to replicate animation frames out to a large number of storage nodes on commodity boxes to boost read performance. Once the demand for access to the animation frame declines, Sony can reduce the number of copies of the files it is storing. Nick Bali, a senior systems engineer at Sony, said in a statement that the company is "impressed with the technology and flexibility of the software. Having evaluated many storage technologies over the years, we are optimistic about finding a potential solution that scales in capacity and performance and targets our content heavy workloads, all the while leveraging standard Linux hardware."

Managed service provider Carpathia has been testing ParaScale to deliver storage services to enterprise and government customers. According to ParaScale CEO Saja Krishnan, the company has customers that want storage but don't want to share infrastructure with other Carpathia customers. "They can launch 100 mini-clouds using our software, each one sitting in half a rack. Other storage service providers have to use a shared infrastructure to serve customers," he says.

Jon Greaves, chief technology officer of Carpathia, is seeing a lot of demand for "cloud bursting." "We chose to integrate ParaScale Cloud Storage into the Carpathia Services Platform to provide customers with a seamless ability to burst into our InstantOn storage and compute cloud," he said in a statement.

ParaScale's Krishnan expects the cloud storage market to boom this year and predicts there will be more than 100 companies offering cloud storage by the end of 2009. "Some will offer streaming, some will be optimized for deep archives, and others will be optimized for audits and compliance. There also is a big demand from hosting companies, which can add this as another service," he says.

By offering a software platform that used commodity hardware, customers have choices in whether they want to optimize for performance or for cost and capacity. Using servers with quad-core processors and a large amount of RAM will maximize performance while adding big, cheap disks is the way to maximize capacity and lower costs for bulk storage, he says.Companies looking to improve storage efficiency while coping with growing volumes of data that need to be stored may find the ParaScale software appealing, says Noemi Greyzdorf, a research manager at market researcher IDC. "It is promising for a specific target market, those who want to build a content repository and deliver storage using a utility model." By using the software to create different pools of storage, "IT managers can serve up the type of storage and performance needed by different business units or departments in a company. But this is secondary storage. It is not going to be used for your primary production database."

Other vendors are offering competing products, most notably EMC's Atmos platform. Greyzdorf says even conservative storage managers looking for ways to reduce spending on disks will see the appeal of technology that can "unify multiple raw devices into a pool of storage. This can be a more efficient way to provision and provide storage."InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis of the challenges around virtualization management. Download the report here (registration required).

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