Storage vets brings out utility OS for services

October 28, 2006

3 Min Read
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The big boys of computing have taken their shots at making utility computing a reality -- and drawn mostly yawns from those running enterprise data centers. (See Enterprises Still Not Sold on Grid.)

Now an 11-person startup with founders from the storage world are convinced they have an operating system to beat the likes of IBM, Sun, Hewlett-Packard, and EMC to the punch.

Aliso Viejo, California-based 3Tera last month began offering AppLogic, a grid operating system aimed at virtualizing an entire infrastructure -- servers, databases, applications, firewalls -- instead of only servers. The idea is to enable management of all the devices through one interface. That would include storage, which 3Tera CEO Vlad Miloushev says eliminates the need for networked storage.

"No SAN, no NAS, no load balancing, no firewalls, none of the stuff we've been selling to data centers for the last 10 years," Miloushev says. "Just commodity servers, gigabit Ethernet, and software."

AppLogic is aimed primarily at hosted service providers and enterprises looking to provide internal users with a utility model. AppLogic allows developers or administrators to configure and allocate all those devices along with applications through a GUI interface. The idea is to make all of those resources part of the application, which includes everything it needs to run on a grid of commodity servers.3Tera may be on to something. EMC started down the same path last January when it spent $30 million to purchase the grid software technology from Acxiom Corporation. (See EMC Unveils Grid Gameplan.) EMC bought Acxiom's software and will jointly develop and sell a hosted grid service with Acxiom. Of course, it's unlikely that EMC shares Miloushev's belief that a grid operating system will eliminate the need for networked storage.

3Tera has storage roots, although not as deep or successful as its large utility rivals. The founders, Miloushev and CTO Peter Nickolov, launched NAS management startup Z-Force in 1999. (See Z-force Is With Us.) After Z-Force crashed in 2003 and was eventually relaunched as Attune Systems, Miloushev and Nickolov started 3Tera in 2004. (See Top 10 Startups to Watch and Attune Launches Virtualization.) Sales and marketing VP Bert Armijo came to 3Tera from InfiniBand startup Topspin -- acquired by Cisco in 2005 -- and previously led Nortel's high performance switching division.

The company is mostly self-funded, with a few angel investors. "When we have an all-hands meeting, we're having an investors meeting as well," Armijo says.

Miloushev says his company will likely seek venture funding down the road. For now, it's trying to line up customers. 3Tera claims around a dozen customers, including San Francisco-based hosted service provider UtilityServe and

International News Media, an online marketing firm and content provider.

UtilityServe uses AppLogic as the core of its utility computing service. UtilityServe president John Keagy says AppLogic was the first operating system he found that was sufficient to launch such a service."We were experimenting with various virtual offerings, but this was the first sensible one," Keagy says. "There are plenty of single-server solutions that are great for single-server environments. This lets you run any combination of operating systems running any combination of application software."

Keagy also sees AppLogic simplifying storage management. "You take one volume and assign it to many different servers, and you no longer have to worry about where that volume is, and where the servers are," Keagy says.

There are challenges. 3Tera's first release only supports Linux with Windows support planned for later in the year. Perhaps AppLogic's biggest long-term challenge, though, will be scaling after the original grid is set up.

For instance, as service providers add customers and companies need to expand the grids, will they be able to add or remove servers and storage without disrupting applications? That may be the deciding factor for the 30 or so potential customers Miloushev says are evaluating the software now.

Dave Raffo, News Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Acxiom Corp. (Nasdaq: ACXM)

  • World Cellular Information Service (WCIS)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc.0

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