If you have spent any time in the IT world you have seen technologies come and go, but few areas have been subjected to the dramatic changes that storage has endured. As enterprise networks have matured the storage of data has exploded. This has fostered new and inventive ways to store and retrieve critical data like the emerging cloud storage platform.
Cloud storage’s time is upon us and as large companies such as Amazon take the lead in this area it has brought legitimacy to the cloud concept. In 2007 IDC released the Digital Universe Study which stated between 2006 and 2010 information stored in the digital universe would increase from 161 Exabytes to 988 Exabytes. Based on this incredible projected growth in data and how cloud storage is evolving we quite possibly are witnessing the future of storage unfolding before us.
Currently when speaking about cloud storage most of the talk is about hosted services such as Amazon’s S3. Companies looking for tier 2 or 3 storage solutions such as for archives, backup or storage of images (photos, video, etc.) may embrace hosted solutions but enterprises have been slow to adopt this model on a larger scale due to the uncertainty of the Internet and the stigma of putting their critical data in somebody else’s hands.
Parascale Cloud Storage software addresses both these concerns by bringing cloud storage into the enterprise. It gives companies a choice of introducing cloud storage either inside or outside the corporate firewall without the need for additional engineers to build and manage a complicated storage infrastructure.
ParaScale’s Cloud Storage software is currently entering its beta (Trial 2) of its product release. Currently there are 5 customers using ParaScale’s software in its alpha (Trial 1) release with Parascale looking to add 10-20 participants during this second phase that it hopes to attract through today’s announcement. What is unclear from the announcement is what market segments ParaScale hopes to attract its beta customers from since it views all companies as having a need for cloud storage. Undoubtedly the type of customers that ParaScale draws for its Trial 2 program will heavily influence how quickly its technology gains broader acceptance when and it is made available for general release.
In regards to how ParaScale’s Cloud Storage software stacks up against other cloud computing solutions, here are some ways it seeks to differentiate itself:
- LCA approach to storage. ParaScale uses the LCA (loosely coupled asymmetric) architecture approach. LCA control nodes do not have to focus on every action which reduces network traffic between control nodes. Instead LCA’s uses controls node that are out of the data path. The control nodes focus on read and write functions without worrying about peers. This reduction in overhead allows companies to access the storage cloud using common file serving protocols (NFS, HTTP, NFS) while eliminating the need for Fiber Channel or Infiniband interfaces.
- Inside or outside the firewall. If you are an enterprise wanting your own storage cloud inside the corporate firewall, or a hosted solutions provider wanting to compete against Amazon’s S3, private or public clouds are attainable through ParaScale. Private clouds allow enterprises to fine tune their cloud for their own purposes, such as archival, streaming media or digital imaging. A public cloud option eliminates the upfront burden for companies to purchase the needed infrastructure and makes it easier for service providers to create their own cloud since they can procure their own servers or use existing ones.
- Highly scalable and reliable storage solution. ParaScale’s unique LCA approach coupled with its use of common file serving protocols may be installed on inexpensive hardware (existing or new) to build a storage cloud that meets your specific enterprises needs. If capacity is your main concern, then using servers with high capacity disk drives may be the desired path; conversely if I/O is your main objective then servers with higher processing power may be the appropriate option. This approach supports the creation of a customizable, flexible storage clouds using readily available hardware of your choosing and standard protocols. Nodes can be added on demand without taking the system offline, and the system balances itself when the node comes online. Data is replicated across multiple nodes allowing fault tolerance in the case of a node failure.
- Low implementation and ongoing administration costs. In addition to using inexpensive, off-the-shelf hardware, ParaScale also keeps implementation costs low by using a Linux-based system. ParaScale claims no special engineers are needed for the install and tuning of its software as it is available as a download from the web. ParaScale also designed its software as a self-healing system to minimize administration so a single administrator capable of managing 100’s of nodes and potentially hundreds of TBs.
ParaScale’s cloud storage direction is intriguing and holds promise if it performs as ParaScale claims but that is a big “IF”. While ParaScale is wisely taking its time in coming to market and claims its alpha release has been in production with no outages for 18 months, it provides no examples of what this configuration looks like or what type of capacity or performance loads to which its alpha release has been subjected. Further, its model does nothing to answer corporate concerns about the viability of their data should companies elect to outsource their data to a third party provider.
The problems associated with Amazon and Google’s cloud computing concepts are already well known providers but at least most users have confidence these companies will come back online should they experience an outage. Now that ParaScale makes it relatively easy for anyone to get into the cloud storage business, companies need to exercise even more caution, not less, in who they select should they go down the outsourcing path.
ParaScale provides an intriguing, new approach to cloud storage and gives many companies for the first time the option to experience the benefits of cloud computing. But like any new technology, more questions than answers still remain. While ParaScale’s cloud storage merits observations as its betas go forward, it will be interesting to see how many companies sign up for its new beta program, what type of companies sign up for it, how they use it and if they demonstrate a willingness to create their own storage clouds. DCIG looks forward to having more to report as ParaScale nears the ends of its trials and GAs its software.