Zetta Systems Flies Under the Storage Radar

Zetta doesn't have the name recognition of some of the bigger players in the storage market, but its CEO says the company is preparing to take the storage world by storm.

Zetta Systems Inc., a small vendor with a storage solution that boasts high levels of storage provisioning, data protection, replication and capacity planning, is quietly planning a storage revolution.

The Seattle, Wash.-based company has built its product from the ground up, taking direction from its users every step of the way.

Zetta first introduced Zetta Server, its flagship product, with the intention of building a NAS (network-attached storage) product that would work on industry-standard hardware while providing data protection functionality such as snapshots and replication. The goal, explained CEO Ganapathy Krishnan, was for users to be able to create unlimited, instantaneous snapshots that could be replicated to remote locations. A stated future goal was support for iSCSI.

But soon after the products March 2003 introduction, Zetta began asking for customer feedback. Soon, the company had all it could ever want—and more. More than 600 users submitted their comments, and Krishnan said the feedback was invaluable in helping determine the products future direction.

"People said they didnt care if the product was NAS or SAN-based. What they really wanted was a way to fix recoverability problems with SQL and Exchange in case of disaster, a way to migrate their storage without downtime, and support for both block and file protocols," Krishnan said.

Users also indicated that while iSCSI was a great idea, it was simply too early. "The analysts said we had to do iSCSI, but at least 600 customers told us they werent ready to put it in production yet," Krishnan said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read how iSCSI is boosting IP-based storage.

Zetta released Version 2 of Zetta Server in August 2003 while compiling the feedback for Version 1. The release didnt incorporate many of the suggestions simply because there wasnt time, Krishnan said. Version 2, considered an interim release, included an easier-to-use user interface.

By the time Zetta released Version 3 in June, however, the company had incorporated all of the user feedback. The new version supported both SAN and NAS technologies and offered unlimited, instantaneous snapshots of blocks and files, block and file replication, and thin provisioning. Most importantly, Version 3 incorporated a provisioning technology called Smart Disk that allows users to provision portions of storage to various machines and expand or contract the storage on the fly.

Version 3 also provided replication functionality to the SAN, which allows snapshots to be replicated from one location to another, and permitted users to put their Exchange and SQL data on a Fibre Channel SAN and take snapshots instantly.

One of the reasons Zetta is such a well-kept secret while competitors such as FalconStor Software Inc. grab the headlines is its method of distribution. Instead of selling directly to customers, Zetta sells its products to value-added resellers and systems integrators, some of which incorporate Zetta Server into their own storage appliances.

Thats the case with Arkay Storage Solutions Inc., an Akron, Ohio, data storage provider that added the Zetta product to its existing portfolio, which included competitor FalconStor, based on customer needs and the lower cost of Zetta Server.

"Our customers are looking for a solid, low-cost product that will do the replication, and they dont want any limitations regarding size of volume," said Richard Kuhar, president of Arkay. "And its got a lot of things the other guys dont have, like a split index architecture and failover, load balancing and resumability built into the architecture," he said.

The product also fit the bill for Arkay, which was looking for a comprehensive, easy-to-use and low-cost solution to incorporate into its own appliance, with the goal of introducing an appliance for the banking industry in January.

Zetta continues its quest for the quintessential storage solution. Next up is Version 3.5 of Zetta Server, due to be released on December 31. Expected to be the final version in the Version 3 family, Version 3.5 will include iSCSI support.

Although Krishnan wont say whats next, he says its sure to take the storage world by storm.

"It will be revolutionary, but its too soon to talk about it," he said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on enterprise and small business storage hardware and software.