Startup to Launch Low-End Storage Alternative

Zetta Systems next month will will launch both the company itself and Zetta Server 2.0, software for turning nearly any hardware into a low-end NAS system.

After years of witnessing storage companies come and go, one customer has decided he knows better for the network-attached storage niche.

Zetta Systems Inc., a seven-person company expecting to be at 50 by the years end, next month will launch both the company itself and Zetta Server 2.0, software for turning nearly any hardware into a low-end NAS system, said Krish Krishnan, CEO of the Woodinville, Wash., startup.

"Ive used a lot of storage systems," he said, citing experience with EMC Corp., Network Appliance Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. as chief technology officer of MusicNet Inc. and CTO of the now-defunct Network Commerce Inc.

In most cases, the existing vendors are fine for mission-critical availability, but too difficult for ordinary companies to administer, he said.

Zetta Server runs on the users choice of parallel or serial ATA drives, SCSI, or Fibre Channel. It also gives the choice of hardware-based or software-based replication, with RAID levels 0, 1, 5 and 10. New in 2.0 are high-availability features like redundant network interfaces and the ability to attach multiple NAS heads to one SAN (storage-area network), Krishnan said. A Web-based user interface manages unlimited snapshots, and a version with unified NAS and SAN features will arrive later this year, he said.

Although it took until the end of the alphabet—companies from American Megatrends Inc. to Zambeel Inc. have all failed to find alternative NAS traction—Krishnans product and team are impressive so far, said Sanjay Anand, director of operations for Classmates Online Inc., in Renton, Wash.

Classmates so far is using Zetta Server only in a secondary staging area; Anand knew Krishnan from a past job, he explained. Still, although Classmates runs its production data on both Hitachi Ltd. and Network Appliance high-end SAN and NAS systems, Zetta Server is very fast compared with those, he said. Also, "It hasnt died on us in three months," and the BSD software works well with Classmates load-balancing appliances from F5 Networks Inc., he added.

"If somebody else can come up with a solution that is less costly and less proprietary … that is one of the big things," Anand said. Zettas snapshot features work well, even compared with EMCs, he said. In the new version, 2.0, "what Im looking for is the N+1 failover," he added.