Cleversafe adds proprietary file system to storage grids

Cleversafe's dsNet software version 1.6 adds file and object-based storage management and flexibility over its existing iSCSI vaults.

Cleversafe Inc. is adding a proprietary file system, a software client, and brushed-up management tools to its dsNet storage grid product. Service providers testing the product said the update will add flexibility to the system, and it could make Cleversafe more appealing for internal clouds.

Distributed Storage Network (dsNet), also called the "Storage Internet," is based on Cleversafe's information-dispersal algorithm. It makes "slices" of data among nodes on a grid that contain code to scramble the data for encryption and allows the data to be rebuilt even if some nodes are lost.

Version 1.6 of the dsNet software adds a proprietary file system over what was previously a more rigid iSCSI block-based partitioning system. The file system is accessed through a WebDAV interface. Previously, dsNet functioned like a hard drive on a PC -- partitions could be created and allocated, but storage space could not be pooled and redistributed later without deleting the original partition and starting over.

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Stelios Valavanis, president of Cleversafe reseller onShore Networks, said the original architecture made Cleversafe a tough sell with smaller companies. If a customer had a 2 TB vault (Cleversafe's term for a volume) and needed to add two more terabytes, it would need a new 2 TB vault even if there was space remaining in the initial vault. "The new software adds a logical layer that's easier to manage," he said. "Its folders are in a file system, which offers more flexibility in terms of allocations and quotas."

The new version of dsNet also uses software clients, rather than requiring a hardware-based Accesser node for upload and download of files from the grid. This was an item on Valavanis' wish list. "This will open doors for us. It lowers the cost and allows you to parallelize your bandwidth to the grid among multiple devices, rather than needing a wider pipe to one consolidated hardware node," Valavanis said.

Version 1.6 also includes a new centralized Web-based dashboard, support for theoretically unlimited capacity (largest tested configuration is 200 TB) and support for more slices -- up to 32 -- of data to be dispersed among grid nodes, along with a higher threshold (24) of nodes that can be lost while data remains recoverable. The software will become generally available Nov. 15. Access through CIFS or NFS interfaces remains a roadmap item, according to Russ Kennedy, Cleversafe vice president of product management and marketing.

On Oct. 15, Cleversafe will begin shipping a new 1U SliceStor hardware node with support for up to 4 TB raw storage for $9,996 list price, as opposed to the older node, which held 3 TB for $11,500.

Illuminata analyst John Webster said he thinks Cleversafe is going to wind up in the right market at the right time. "Large systems users are beginning to look at service providers, and the very attractive cost per terabyte they're able to offer, and say, if they can do that, why can't we?" This will lead to more use of cloud computing, whether internal clouds behind the company's firewall or external clouds offered by a service provider, according to Webster.

Still, it will be an uphill fight for a bleeding-edge technology like Cleversafe's to catch on. "They've got customers right now, but not too many of them," Webster noted.

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