Infrastructure // Storage
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John Foley
John Foley
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Startup Of The Week: Ocarina Networks

Ocarina, which got its start in photo storage optimization, is expanding its data-compression technology into other markets.

There are two ways to manage explosive data growth--add more storage capacity or compress the data. Ocarina Networks specializes in the latter. After getting its start in photo storage optimization, Ocarina is expanding into other markets. It recently tuned its products for movie studios, oil and gas companies, and medical institutions.
--John Foley


 Murli Thirumale, founder and CEO, Ocarina Networks

Thirumale previously founded Net6

HEADQUARTERS: San Jose, Calif.

PRODUCT: Online Storage Optimization appliances and software

PRINCIPALS: Murli Thirumale, founder and CEO; Carter George, VP of products; Goutham Rao, CTO

INVESTORS: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Highland Capital Partners, Stanford University

EARLY CUSTOMERS: Kodak, Photoways Group

Ocarina squishes data using compression algorithms that have been developed for specific file types. For example, the company has identified 37 file types (including AVI, EXR, and RLA) used by moviemakers and a handful of others that are common to oil and gas companies. Overall, Ocarina has developed 100-plus algorithms that address some 400 file types.

For companies looking to optimize their storage environments, Ocarina's file-aware approach to data compression is worth evaluating, and the startup's growing customer list is evidence that it's catching on. But the specialized nature of Ocarina's algorithms also means that IT pros need to assess the makeup of the data being generated inside their companies and where they stand to benefit the most from file-specific compression. This needs to be compared with other compression and deduplication options.

The experts behind Ocarina's software are Ph.D. mathematicians and other number-crunching researchers. Ocarina is offering $1 million in prize money for file-specific compression algorithms.

Data goes through a three-step process: Ocarina extracts storage objects from within files; correlates objects--exact matches and similar objects--across files; then optimizes storage objects for maximum space utilization. The company says the technique leads to storage space savings from 40% to 90%. The system consists of appliances, called Optimizers, that read and then write back files to storage, and Readers, for reading and writing Ocarina-optimized files. The appliance starts at $49,500.

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