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CAS at a Crossroads

When it comes to content-addressable storage (CAS), the word on the street is software, and a smattering of companies are beginning to pay attention.

Let's start at the top: CAS creates an object-oriented, searchable archive of so-called "fixed-content" data, such as medical images, that can be used for recovery after a failure. While EMC's Centera is the best-known CAS box, products from the likes of Archivas, Bycast, Nexsan, Permabit, Sun, and Veritas (now Symantec) have emerged in the last two years. (See StorageTek Rolls Its Own CAS, Veritas Archives Another Startup, and Nexsan Targets CAS Startup.)

Here's the problem: Most solutions require a vendor's own hardware or appliance. Additionally, getting some applications to work with a CAS system requires proprietary APIs (application programming interfaces). (See CAS Conundrum.)

But a couple of startups, including Archivas, Canadian startup Bycast, and stealth-mode Caringo (no Website yet), are leading the charge toward software-based wares that ultimately could prove more efficient -- maybe even cheaper than what's now available.

Of these, Bycast is farthest along. Based in Toronto, the vendor offers software called StorageGRID that works with a range of hardware platforms across multiple sites at the same time. Using a browser-based, Linux-based interface that runs under Linux, Windows, or Unix, StorageGRID parses metadata from CIFS, NFS, or HTTP-based files and creates objects from the metadata. It then uses rules to act on the objects. A file on a SAN, for instance, can be moved to tape after 60 days.

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