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Awash In Files, Army Tests New Storage Approach

Software from startup helps to unclog networks and find files faster.

Many businesses are struggling to deal with massive amounts of files and data that are filling storage systems and clogging networks. The U.S. Army has a similar problem, and it's turning to storage-management software from a startup company to help solve the problem.

Part of the problem is caused by veterans with many years of service who want to keep every file, document, and E-mail they've ever handled, says Lt. Col. William Hoppe, a commander over some of the United States Army's acquisitions, logistics, and IT. "They never get rid of anything," he says. "They just keep asking for more shared drives."

Hoppe recently tested software from Persist Technologies Inc., which is unveiling the product on Monday. The AppStor software works on storage hardware from a number of vendors to offload files and documents from mail and file servers to a pool of storage resources. It also indexes the contents of the documents so they can be found and retrieved faster. The system also can be accessed over the Internet via a Web browser.

AppStor resides within a bank of storage blades at the center of the network and pulls information off file servers and other storage systems. The software keeps operations, security, a database, a search engine, and redundancy hidden from users as it sets up an automatic process to capture, index, search, retrieve, and distribute files. The test system used storage hardware from Hewlett-Packard, and Persist has agreements with storage other vendors such as Dell, IBM, and RLX. The software costs $45,000.

"When an Exchange server went down, our users could access their E-mail file off the Persist system," says Hoppe, who plans to deploy an AppStor system this summer. "And if a blade gets full, I slide in another one that indexes automatically."

Hoppe says the Persist software solves a number of additional problems. Microsoft Exchange has trouble handling very large files and many of his users have lots of files that size, he says. Plus, his current storage system has problems when several people try to access the same attachment stored on a file or mail server. "With Persist, I'll have one copy of the attachment, and all of those people can access it from there," he says. "Ultimately, we want to drop any document we need into the appliance and access it by word search from the network or the Web."

"Customers will manage the system as a single appliance, even though there are actually multiple node at play," says Gary Lyng, VP of product management and alliances at Persist. He says AppStor can process 40 documents per second, and guarantees response time of three seconds for 500 concurrent users.

Persist may be an effective way for businesses to consolidate servers because so many of them are used just for storage, says Sara Radicati, an analyst and president and CEO at the Radicati Group. "Persist could alter operational expenses dramatically," she says.

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