Big Deal

Zetera's non-standard IP protocol gets a big showcase to try and prove its worth

May 16, 2006

2 Min Read
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6:15 PM -- The Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) unveiled plans for a 1.4-Pbyte science project today that is aimed at better understanding early childhood cognitive development. (See MIT to Construct Giant IP SAN.)

The so-called Human Speechome Project will collect and analyze video and audio data. It will also help determine if startup Zetera's technology is ready for a closeup.

Besides the size, the unusual thing about the MIT system is that there's no Fibre Channel to be found in the system. Or iSCSI, for that matter. To support 1 Pbyte, the massive IP SAN will consist of more than 3,000 Seagate SATA drives, 100 Marvell 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switches, Bell Microproducts 300 Hammer Z-Rack storage enclosures, and around 400 blade processors.

The system is based on Zetera's Z-SAN IP technology, an Ethernet alternative to iSCSI. (See Proprietary Gear Seeks Foothold and Bell Intros Z-SAN Family.) Zetera uses the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) instead of TCP, which is the basis for iSCSI. The protocol enables RAID without a specialized controller. (See Zetera Rewrites iSCSI and Zetera Unveils New Storage Solutions.)

So, along with a better understanding of cognitive development, the system may prove something about Zetera's approach: namely whether it's worthy of more than the low-end commercial products it has been used for so far.Still, there's a problem: Though Zetera CEO Chuck Cortright has maintained from the start his technology works in the data center, he is likely to have a tough time getting operating systems and business application vendors to support a protocol without standards.

Further, before Zetera can expect the likes of Microsoft or Oracle to support its protocol, it needs to prove a few more things, such as its ability to support its concepts. But the Media Lab project will use home-grown data mining tools to analyze video and audio files, so vendor support is not an issue.

Ultimately, Zetera needs more than one big science network based on its wares. It needs a pretty big customer base willing to pay for its technology. One academic project, however large, won't be enough to set its course.

— Dave Raffo, News Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Bell Microproducts (Nasdaq: BELM)

  • Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL)

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

  • Seagate Technology Inc. (NYSE: STX)

  • Zetera Corp.0

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