ExaGrid Systems Inc. has taken the wraps off a grid-enabled storage system that combines policy-based file-level backup, restore, archiving, replication, compression and automatic data migration via a distributed peer-to-peer architecture for just over $60,000.
Called Advanstor, the system runs on a redundant network of Intel servers with serial ATA drives, which can function as either NAS devices or disk storage to provide a virtualized pool of capacity to the storage administrator. Each grid disk has its own personality. The user configures the number of NAS devices and storage disks as required. Front-end filers cannot be clustered at this point.
The exciting part about this product, according to Evangeline Simones, analyst with The Evaluator Group, is the level of integration it offers. Standard approaches to backup and disaster recovery involve managing multiple different software and hardware products with extensive manual integration. She added that the Avanstor system only backs up changed files, unlike traditional backup packages that result in drastic over-replication of the same static data.
Aaron Sawchuk, director of technology at ColoSpace, a Massachusetts hosting services provider, was looking for a disk-based storage solution to cut down on carting tapes between its five datac enters. It has deployed ExaGrid in two data centers as a repository for database backups. "We back up to the disk over our gigabit Ethernet network, so there's no need to truck tapes around anymore," he said. For redundancy purposes, Sawchuk liked the fact that the software makes a second copy of every file at site one, and creates a pointer at the second site to this data. Each copy is made on separate bricks so if one or two go down, there is still another copy. ExaGrid calls this rapid site recovery.
"The initial capital expense of this product is cheaper than traditional approaches and then, one fifth the cost to manage in subsequent years," claimed Mark Kaufman, CEO of ExaGrid. Kaufman used to run EMC Corp.'s Cambridge, Mass., development center. Users get two racks, one for each site, and a terabyte of storage that can be divided up between the locations. "Because the capacity is virtualized, it can be used by whoever needs it," Kaufman said.
Tony Asaro, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, said the up front cost of the Advanstor is actually higher than traditional NAS systems for comparable storage. However, he said it's justifiable because of the overall operational cost savings. He noted that the product uses Microsoft Windows Storage Server, which means Linux and Unix users probably won't be using it.
Separately, IP SAN manufacturer EqualLogic unveiled Monday a family of grid-based arrays scaling up and down from its first system, the PS100E. New boxes include the entry-level PS50E with 1.75 terabytes (TB) and a single controller; the PS100X with 1 TB, a dual controller and 10,000 RPM drives; and the fully loaded PS200E, which comes with 5.6 TB and a dual controller. These boxes can be plugged together in any configuration and work together in a grid fashion. The entry-level box is priced at $24,900.
New software features include auto-start disk monitoring, which provides an active drive monitoring capability that checks the health of the disk drives as the application is running. EqualLogic has about 180 customers and says it is starting to see deployments of its product in larger installations.
The Evaluator Group's Simones said, "It remains to be seen how traditionally risk-averse companies will adapt to this totally new grid architecture," but it's certainly interesting. Grid storage is something a lot of vendors, new and old, are talking about. Network Appliance Inc. is expected to announce its grid plans next month. Other vendors providing data protection using grid storage include Hewlett Packard Co. with its RISS implementation, Isilon Systems Inc., Permabit Inc. and Panasas Inc.