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3/30/2009
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Storage Startup Turns Many Servers Into One Storage Pool

ParaScale software enables a cloud-like system for tier 2 storage and archiving on commodity hardware and Linux.

ParaScale software enables a cloud-like system for tier 2 storage and archiving on commodity hardware and Linux.Startup ParaScale is a pure cloud play. is launching the ParaScale Cloud Storage (PCS) software. Aimed at both enterprises and service providers, the software lets companies build storage clusters using off-the-shelf servers and the Linux OS.

PCS makes a cluster of servers appear as one storage appliance. The cluster uses a single namespace and sits behind a single IP address, so administrators don't have to update the file path that applications take to store and access data whenever a new server is added to the cluster.

PCS has two flavors of software. The base software turns servers into storage nodes. A separate set of software creates control nodes, which maintain the namespace and meta data that serve as the master map of where files reside in the cluster. The company says clients and applications will first talk directly to a storage node. If that storage node can't locate a file, it transfers the request to a control node while maintaining the session.

The software prevents against data loss by storing copies of data on different nodes, so if a disk fails on one server, the files will still be available elsewhere.

ParaScale says its software aims at tier-two and archival storage, such as file backups, medical images and video. The company has announced several enterprise customers, including Blue Coat Software and Sony Pictures ImageWorks. It has also announced partnerships with service providers that use its software to offer online storage services.

The company is competing head to head with EMC's Atmos, which offers a similar architecture. Other competitors include CleverSafe, which sells appliances to build a storage grid that combines capacity with data protection. ParaScale may also run into companies like Isilon Systems, which recently announced new additions to its line of scale-out NAS boxes.

Then there's Nirvanix, which is a pure cloud play. And speaking of clouds…

CLOUDY DEFINITIONS ParaScale positions itself as a cloud vendor. I've gone back and forth with the company's CEO, Sajai Krishnan, about whether this product really qualifies as a "cloud" solution. To me, ParaScale sounds like a cluster or grid solution, particularly as defined by my colleague Howard Marks.

Mr. Krishnan argues that it's more than a grid, in that the compute resources of a traditional grid are brought to bear on a single problem, whereas in a cloud architecture, you have a shared pool of capacity available to a variety of applications at the same time.

I think we'll have to agree to disagree on definitions. However, whatever ParaScale decides to call itself, the company bears watching.

ParaScale's base software starts at $1050 per Tbyte. Control node software is $250 per Tbyte.

InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis of the challenges around enterprise storage. Download the report here (registration required).

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