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Gridstore Puts Scale-out NAS In Reach Of SMBs

I've always been partial to scale-out storage systems based on the RAIN (Redundant Array of Independent Nodes) model. If data grows faster than predicted, and it always does, I can just add another node or two to the cluster (or grid, cloud, fogbank or whatever the vendor wants to call it), and I never have to fire up the forklift for an upgrade. Now, an Irish startup, Gridstore, is taking the idea downscale by bringing the per-node cost of their SMB NASg to just $400.

Gridstore hopes to attract a cadre of managed service providers (MSP) that can offer storage to small businesses on a GB/month basis. The MSPs enjoy minimal capital investments, especially for spares, as they can keep just one model. Gridstore has even produced a multi-tenant management console that can alert the MSP when a node dies at a client. NASg nodes, which will be sold by OEMs and probably be branded by MSPs, run embedded Windows XP on an Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, a gigabit Ethenet port and a 1 or 2TB SATA drive. The software lets you define how many nodes to allocate to parity or spares.  

With Gridstore promising performance of 25-30MB/s per client, a four- or five-node cluster should deliver better performance than a four-bay SOHO NAS from Iomega or Netgear for about the same price. Of course, when the four-bay NAS is full, you have two options: upgrade and migrate or, even worse, add a second NAS and spend your whole life trying to balance them.  The downside with Gridstore is that you have to install the file system on every client that needs to access the data from the grid.   

That said, I think Gridstore has found a market where the software client may not be a turn off. The MSPs they target already tightly manage their customers' clients. If MSPs decide to sell subscription-based storage, adding another client to the workstation image isn't as onerous as it would be for mid-market IT folks who don't have the client management toolkit  that MSPs and enterprise IT do. Gridstore has CIFS/SMB and iSCSI access on the roadmap, which should make their grid of small nodes attractive for a wider audience. They've also started me thinking about RAIN and node configurations in general--but that's another blog entry.