10 Disruptive New Storage Technologies Promise Big Changes

Fresh ideas bringing much-improved hardware and software to all sectors of the data storage market.

Storage has gone from being a critical but overlooked tool to something that can offer companies significant competitive advantage, mainly thanks to technological advances that can be truly called disruptive.

When we say disruptive we mean something that totally changes an industry; think "Hello, iPod; bye-bye Walkman."

Here are a few technologies that have emerged recently to set the industry on its ear:

  • Seanodes and RevStor: Using existing server space for storage.
  • Xsigo Systems: First to do I/O hardware virtualization.
  • Gear6: Cache and carry.
  • Pillar Data Systems: Commodity hardware, software efficiency like no other.
  • Moonwalk: No middleware needed in node agent-oriented software.
  • Panasas: Opens up the I/O freeway with parallel file system.
  • RPost: Registered e-mail; lawyers like it.
  • Caringo: The Porsche of read/write functions.
  • CopperEye: Mixes high-speed indexing with commodity hardware to find the needle in the haystack.

Here are brief descriptions of each of these ground-breaking technologies and the sectors of data storage industry that stand to be disrupted.

Disrupter: Seanodes, France

Disrupted: Virtually all conventional storage companies that want to sell you arrays or storage servers.

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A new, 25-person startup based in Paris introduced what could well be revolutionary storage software Nov. 20 that enables organizations to make underutilized internal application server storage available for the first time as a virtualized storage pool.

Using a new architecture designed for high-performance computing and enterprise environments, Seanodes' new Exanodes software identifies unused storage capacity in application servers and puts it to work in a company's production process.

"We are doing for storage what VMware has done for applications," Seanodes CEO and founder Jacques Baldinger told eWEEK.

"Exanodes is the exact symmetric: When VMware aggregates, organizes and consolidates CPUs in application servers, Exanodes aggregates, organizes and consolidates storage devices in application servers," Baldinger said.

Disrupter: RevStor, United States

Disrupted: See "Seanodes" above.

Storage solutions newcomer RevStor in November unveiled SANware, a new software product that takes advantage of unused storage capacity of networked desktops, laptops and servers, and turns them into a single storage grid, similar to Seanodes. Files are broken into chunks and distributed in seemingly random fashion-a breakthrough in accessibility, security and asset utilization.

Until now, harnessing the power of multiple computers has been restricted to custom-made, large enterprise solutions costing tens of thousands of dollars. SANware changes the status quo through its development of a single, easily-implemented application using patent-pending chunking and encryption algorithms. Despite its unique approach, SANware imposes a performance impact of only about 1 to 3 percent, a penalty virtually unnoticeable to users, according to CEO and founder Russ Felker.

"SANware creates an aggregate pool of storage where data can be easily backed up and retrieved. In today's business environment, where storage demands are mushrooming and federal regulations like HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley impose strict data security and availability requirements, SANware can solve multiple problems," Felker said from his Schaumberg, Ill., headquarters.

Disrupter: Moonwalk, Australia

Disrupted: Companies that specialize in tiered SAN storage systems.

Moonwalk, an Australia-based creator of what it calls "all-inclusive data management and protection software," made its U.S. debut last April with the introduction of its Moonwalk 6.0 software suite.

Moonwalk's software uses no middleware, yet automates and proactively manages the migration, copying and movement of data transparently throughout the enterprise, CEO Peter Harvey told eWEEK. It uses 1MB-to-4MB-sized "agents" that reside in each node to handle data-movement transactions as controlled by the storage administrator.

Moonwalk, based in Milton, Australia, dispenses with tiered or hierarchical storage approaches and SRM (storage resource management) applications that merely provide visibility into storage usage.

Moonwalk is comprised of one software platform "that will scale from your PC to your enterprise," Harvey said. "It's enterprise-type software that just runs. As long as we see a file system, we play."

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Disrupter: Xsigo, United States

Disrupted: Storage managers and CIOs, who will be overjoyed to get this into their systems ASAP.

Xsigo Systems might look like just another IT company with a strange, unpronounceable name (it's actually pronounced See-go), but it stands a good chance of becoming well known in data center circles.

The company, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., which spent three years in R&D, officially launched itself and a product line here at VMworld in September. Xsigo's main product is a $30,000 data center box appliance called VP780 I/O Director, which the company insists will open up the heretofore hardly touched world of I/O to data centers.

I/O Director uses specialized processors and InfiniBand connectivity to overcome the limitations of regular server I/O by virtualizing the flow of data through a system. It consolidates cabling and replaces multiple physical network and storage interfaces (network interface cards and host bus adapters) with virtual resources that appear to applications and operating systems exactly as their physical counterparts.

Disrupter: Gear6, United States

Disrupted: Not a direct hit on conventional SAN makers, because this can be incorporated into virtually any existing system as an add-on. As a standalone, however, it will replace some older storage systems.

Gear6 has decided the best way to avoid the usual-suspect I/O storage bottlenecks is to increase the capacity of the main cache, which eliminates all the tiered channels used by conventional network storage providers.

The company's CACHEfx appliances provide massively scalable, centralized storage caching solutions for organizations relying on the high-speed delivery of data to clustered and other I/O intensive applications. By eliminating shared I/O bottlenecks, Gear6 appliances accelerate data center I/O performance and increase server utilization levels to help companies maximize storage and server investments.

Gear6, in San Jose, Calif., provides visibility into how application workloads are influenced by server virtualization, clustered computing and Web-scale environments to dynamically improve and manage sustainable I/O performance, even under peak load conditions.

Disrupter: Caringo, United States

Disrupted: Conventional storage companies and storage managers who will be overjoyed to get this into their systems ASAP.

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Caringo's CAStor patented storage I/O architecture is designed to deliver high performance for small, medium and large files-including content like e-mail messages, documents, and images-as well as rich media and videos. But the difference is this: If most systems' performance equates to a Volkswagen, then Caringo is a Porsche.

Testing and customers have demonstrated that a 32-node CAStor cluster delivers approximately 3,200 writes per second and 2,500 reads per second for 32K size files. As an example in this scenario, it can handle more than 276 million writes per day (a 24-hour period)-very sufficient to handle environments with the highest of e-mail traffic rates.

Disrupter: Panasas, United States

Disrupted: Any other storage system deploying the regular NFS, which most all currently do.

In the high-performance and open source arenas, storage system maker Panasas will soon be making a big splash. The company recently released the source code of its cutting-edge parallel file system client software, called DirectFLOW, to the open-source community.

The Parallel Network File System, or pNFS, is a complex Panasas-created technology engineered to solve storage I/O bottlenecks and accelerate customer deployments of parallel storage solutions, Panasas founder and CTO Garth Gibson said. It enables direct parallel data transfer-as opposed to the standard, narrower, one-lane file system-between clients and storage devices.

This can be compared to adding a second layer to a two-way freeway-one complete road for the data and one for metadata-effectively doubling the system I/O.

pNFS is a critical component of NFS version 4.1, the first major performance upgrade to the widely deployed NFS in more than a decade.

Page 3: Ten Disruptive New Storage Technologies

Disrupter: Pillar Data Systems, United States

Disrupted: Virtually all conventional storage companies.

Founded in 2001 and bankrolled almost exclusively by Oracle gazillionaire founder/CEO Larry Ellison, Pillar Data Systems develops midrange and enterprise network storage systems that are among the most efficient in the business.

Pillar Data, as a second-generation storage provider, has been able to learn from the mistakes of older vendors and come up with a new design that leapfrogs over the others in several ways, CEO Mike Workman, a seasoned IT veteran and Ellison's hand-picked storage lieutenant, told eWEEK.

The company's Pillar Axiom software, driven by its policy-based management capabilities, integrates SAN and NAS into a centrally managed storage platform. Pillar Axiom systems consolidate multiple tiers of enterprise network storage into a single system capable of scaling to hundreds of terabytes of capacity.

Disrupter: RPost, United States

Disrupted: Conventional email archiving companies.

New legislation and court rulings hold that electronic messages are given the same legal status as paper documents. However, if the other side is not willing to stipulate that they received your e-mail and that it said what you say it did, your evidence admissibility and defense is in question-and you have a major legal problem.

Registered email provides the sender with verifiable proof that the message was sent and legally delivered for ANY Internet address. The sender gets a receipt via e-mail proving content, times, and legal delivery. RPost Registered E-mail minimizes denial of e-mail receipt or content received, minimizes shirking of responsibility, and lets users better understand what information has actually been transmitted, to whom, and when.

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RPost Registered E-mail provides legal and verifiable proof and protection for the sender of any Registered E-mail sent to any recipient anywhere in the world-regardless of what system or software the recipient uses, regardless of their settings, and without requiring them to respond in any way. The cost: About $1 per day per user.

Disrupter: CopperEye, UK

Disrupted: All other conventional storage companies.

CopperEye's Greenwich Server is the first storage software product to marry an advanced indexing system with off-the-shelf, commodity storage hardware.

CopperEye enables extremely fast access to large volumes (up to terabytes) of business data before it gets loaded into the data warehouse, allowing business intelligence software to deliver the business value of a trickle-feed warehouse without the cost and disruption of re-architecting an infrastructure.

CopperEye's approach is that much of the business transaction data stored in commercial databases cannot ever change once it is created, and therefore, does not need the power and sophisticationor overhead-of a relational database, CEO Kate Mitchell told eWEEK. These data are historical transactions that occur in large volumes, must often be retained for lengthy periods of time for regulatory or business purposes, and customarily return a very specific set of records when selectively queried.

eWEEK Senior Editor Wayne Rash contributed to this report.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...