Caringo Moves out of the Starting Gate with CAS Software

Storage startup Caringo plans to take advantage of the increasing amount of fixed content with a scalable content-addressed storage system.

Paul Carpentier is at it again. Just a few years after selling the company that created the technology behind content-addressed storage to EMC, Carpentier, now chief technology officer of startup Caringo of Austin, Texas, has teamed with partners Mark Goros and Jonathan Ring to created CAStor, a CAS product that Caringos executive team insists will take CAS to a new level.

"We looked around the market and realized that there was an opportunity to make a tremendous contribution in the fixed content storage business, because there is more fixed content around today than structured content," said CEO Mark Goros.

"Corporations are spending huge amounts of money for fixed content and they dont really have to. We knew that if we take advantage of technology that has gotten more reliable, faster and denser in terms of disk drives and combined that with hardware-agnostic software, we could build a product that offers primary storage performance with the integrity of archive and peel away some of the complexity that is plaguing the fixed content storage market," Goros said.

The resulting product, CAStor, is a scalable CAS system designed for high performance of all fixed content data types. The product offers high data integrity and built-in disaster recovery, backup and continuous data availability features.

In addition, it runs on any type of hardware the customer cares to use and is eminently scalable, due to a parallel cluster architecture.

Although CAStor shares some similarities with competitors like EMCs Centera—itself built on Carpentiers CAS design from its sale of FilePool in 2001—CAStor offers higher, more usable features, according to Goros.

"It can do what Centera does and a lot more. Its more scalable; it runs on commodity hardware; its a tenth the price; and it offers more information integrity," Goros said.

"And its designed for high performance for all fixed content data types. Typical CAS products dont do well with small pieces of information like digital check images that are seven to 12K."

While many CAS products are bundled with all hardware, software and networking included, CAStor offers users a choice, Carpentier said.

"It can use any kind of hardware, even heterogeneously," he said. "You can run IBM, HP and Dell nodes all together if you want, and even use different types of specifications."

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That may be true, said Greg Schulz, senior analyst at The StorageIO Group of Stillwater, Minn., but that may not be the case for long if the product takes off.

"Even Centera isnt actually tied to any particular hardware, but EMC has bundled it with hardware, software and networking. The same will happen with CAStor, as partners like HP, Dell, IBM, Sun and Xiotech package it to create their own offerings," he said.

And unlike most CAS tools, CAStor is delivered in a somewhat unusual form factor—on a bootable USB stick, where both the operating system and server software are located.

"Its the simplest way we could imagine to turn standard PC hardware into a working operational appliance node," Carpentier said.

To address organizations burgeoning regulatory requirements, Caringo also offers an optional compliance module that contains additional features to ensure compliance, he said.

Because of its simple setup and management—not to mention pricing that starts at $500 per disk, or $1,000 for a node that consists of two 500GB drives—Carpentier said CAStor may be particularly attractive to smaller organizations.

"There is no active management required. You just power the nodes up and they automatically discover and work with each other. And the cost is very reasonable. Even after you add the cost of the software, youre only at about $2 per gigabyte."

CAStors pricing model is definitely interesting and different, Schulz said. "Basing it on the number of disk drives means its not based on use or activity—its just a function of how much data youre going to store. So it doesnt penalize you for having a high-capacity disk drive."

Although Caringo may be ahead of the curve with some of CAStors features such as form factor and an innovative pricing model, Schulz believes its only a matter of time before its competitors follow suit and even end up ahead.

"They appear to have some interesting capabilities and features, but the other players in this space, like Permabit, EMC, HP and Nexsan, probably have similar things on their road maps.

"I expect that well hear some equally interesting stories in terms of scaling and other features as time goes on," Schulz said.

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