Article

Caringo improves file handling in CAStor to complement archiving

Dave Raffo

Caringo Inc. is adding a file server to its CAStor storage cluster, enhancing its ability to handle active data along with its original archiving capabilities.

The new CAStor Content File Server (CFS) provides file

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system access to data managed by CAStor nodes.

Caringo, whose founders developed the technology that EMC's Centera content-addressed storage (CAS) system is based on, started out as an archiving vendor in 2005. After realizing its customers also used CAStor as an alternative to clustered NAS for nearline storage, Caringo decided to launch a file server to improve the scalability and performance of file management with native support of common protocols.

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CFS runs on a server that sits in front of CAStor storage clusters. Caringo will offer it as a licensed option, priced at $5,000 per CFS.

Caringo previously supported native HTTP access for files but required a File System Gateway to run CIFS or NFS. CFS natively supports CIFS, NFS, Mac, FTP and WebDAV, and can run as a native Linux file system. CFS also includes continuous snapshots and the ability to apply metadata attributes to set retention periods for compliance.

"It was always part of our plan to have file access," said Caringo vice president of marketing Derek Gascon. "Initially, we planned to provide file access to applications, but we realized customers wanted to use this for general purpose file storage. That meant it required full file capabilities. The original File System Gateway didn't have all the feature sets you'd want in a file system."

CFS manages a single address for each file. Caringo said it scales to petabytes and manages billions of files, although Gascon said the vendor is still trying to determine from customer testing how many files or CAStor nodes each CFS supports before another CFS is required. He said CFS has been in beta testing with six customers and he expects it to be generally available by the end of the year.

Analysts said Caringo's strategy is wise because the archiving market is still small and is dominated by EMC's Centera.

"Object-oriented storage for compliant archives is a very narrow niche," said Forrester Research analyst Stephanie Belaouras. "With the file system interface they can go after general file storage, as well as scalable file storage requirements, in addition to compliant archiving, all in the same box."

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Terri McClure added: "It is hard for a small company like Caringo, no matter how good the product, to get traction against a behemoth like EMC in a small captive market. So expanding the addressable market is a necessary move."

Caringo sees CFS as a good fit for organizations with large file stores, such as financial services, healthcare, media and entertainment, and most verticals outside of high-performance computing or others that do a lot of rendering.

"It brings them into competition with all the vendors offering scalable file storage like NetApp and Isilon, and they still remain in competition with other object-oriented systems like Centera," Balaouras said of Caringo.

McClure said Caringo also has the product features to make it a contender for cloud computing. She points out software optimized for WORM applications and large quantities of data instead of small file I/O transactions work for archiving, Web 2.0 companies and clouds.

"Caringo's new play is to be a little bit of everything -- one single storage tier that can handle CAS, NAS and cloud infrastructure environments," she said. "This all adds up to commodity bulk storage as a good fit, provided the software layer that wraps it has robust policies to manage availability, retention, security and in the case of Web 2.0 and cloud storage, distribution policies. That's why cloud storage provides a good opportunity for companies we've traditionally thought of as archiving companies, like Caringo."

 


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