Startups Bring Unified Storage to SMBs

Every few years we hit a "Great Minds Think Alike" moment where products based on the same idea appear within months of each other. In Hollywood this gives us "Dante's Peak" and "Volcano" or "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon". Here in Byte and Switch's storage world we had Lefthand, Intransa and Equallogic all releasing iSCSI clusters and now we have startups Prana and Scale Computing both announcing scale out unified storage systems for the SMB market.

Howard Marks

July 7, 2009

3 Min Read
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Every few years we hit a "Great Minds Think Alike" momentwhere  products based on the same idea appear within months ofeach other.  In Hollywood this gives us "Dante'sPeak" and "Volcano" or "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon". Here in Byte and Switch'sstorage world we had Lefthand, Intransa and Equallogic all releasing iSCSIclusters and now we have startups Prana and Scale Computing both announcingscale out unified storage systems for the SMB market.

Now like a movie where a comet impact is about to create an extinctionlevel event unless Tommy Lee Jones or Bruce Willis blows it up scale out NASisn't a new idea.  After all Isilon,Ibrix and HP with their ExDS9100 have been building scale out NAS systems foroil companies, movie studios and other deep pocket customers for years.  

Both vendors have 1u systems that run a Linux variant toprovide CIFS, NFS and iSCSI access to storage that's managed through a webinterface. Both also support clustering so a group of nodes can support asingle NAS name space.

Scale Computing uses SuperMicro's solid, if not cuttingedge, 1U servers with 4 500GB or 1TB SATA drives as the basis for theirsystem.  Each node has 1 gigabit Ethernetports, 1 faces the user network and the other a private inter-node communicationsnet.  Rather than using conventional RAIDwithin each node Scale's OS stripes and mirrors data so there's two copies ofany data block on two different nodes which allows system with at least 3 nodesto survive drive or node failures.  Basing their technology on IBM's GPFS file system a ScaleTrueCluster uses a virtual IP address that can shift from a filing node to agood one to support CIFS or NFS failover and iSCSI multipath technology, includingWindows MPIO, to failover access to block LUNs. As nodes are added to anexisting cluster data is automatically re-balanced.

A cluster with 3TB of useable space (6TB RAW) is about$13,000 MSRP. Scale claims to deliver 70MB/s performance per node and to scalelinearly so that 3 node cluster will deliver 210MB/s throughput.

Founded by alums of Indiana's own  Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Scalerecently received a couple million in funding from the Indiana EconomicDevelopment Corp. for locating in that tech hotspot Indianapolis.

Pranah, it's Sanskrit for breath or vital energy, StorageTechnologies took a slightly different approach designing their own 1U serverthat holds 4 internal, non-hot-swappable drives and has left to right ratherthan the usual server front to back airflow that they claim results in cooleroperations. The system can support SAS and Fibre Channel drives in addition tothe SATA drives that are more common in this end of the market. They alsosupport Fibre Channel and 10GigE connections for applications that need higherperformance.

Pranah also has 1 and 3U SAS attached JBODs for scale up andtheir own distributed file system, which relies on the open source Gluster filesystem, for NAS scale out across multiple nodes.  They also include snapshots and replication inboth sync and async modes.Both players are shooting for the SMB market with prices inthe $2-3/GB range and reseller focused market strategies. Scales systems are available now. Products from Pranahshould be available in the fall.

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: http://www.deepstorage.net/NEW/GBoS

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