ParaScale Inc. made its cloud file storage software generally available today as a download from its website, and the startup claims an impressive list of beta customers have tested it successfully for private and public clouds.
ParaScale Cloud Storage (PCS), software that can turn commodity Linux servers into a parallel network-attached storage (NAS) farm, has been in beta since last September. ParaScale CEO Sajai Krishnan said Blue Coat Systems Inc., Carpathia Hosting Inc., Sony Pictures ImageWorks, South River Technologies Inc., Stanford Genome Technology Center and Vembu Technologies Pvt. Ltd. are using PCS either internally for private clouds or as public clouds for managed services.
Krishnan referred to PCS as the "first shrink-wrapped cloud solution." Version 1.2 of the software can be downloaded from ParaScale's website and run on any commodity hardware. Pricing is based on the physical capacity within the cloud, with deployments starting at $1.05 per GB.
There's no shortage of competition out there, including EMC Corp.'s Atmos and Hewlett-Packard Co.'s StorageWorks 9100 Extreme Data Storage System (ExDS9100) that rolled out last year. PCS also competes with more traditional scale-out NAS systems and software from Caringo Inc., Exanet Inc., Ibrix Inc. and Isilon Systems Inc.
Krishnan said most of the competitive products are designed more for writing a single file across many nodes and locking files so two clients can't write to them simultaneously. PCS, he said, is better for drive aggregate file performance.
"We don't deal great with single file access, we do great in allowing aggregate file performance," he said. "We scale more nodes. In parallel, we allow any number of clients to access the files."
Carpathia Hosting has been testing PCS since October for three managed services it will go live with next month: InstantOn,Virtual DR and Virtual Labs. InstantOn lets Carpathia's AlwaysOn managed IT services customers add storage, Virtual DR provides storage for disaster recovery, while Virtual Labs provides storage for test and development environments.
"It's a very clever piece of technology," said Jon Greaves, chief technology officer at Carpathia, of PCS. "We have to blend a physical piece of infrastructure with a virtual infrastructure running the cloud. ParaScale is the storage bus for us. It allows me to mount a file system on a Unix box, and it has the same file system exposed on the cloud to virtual machines running on VMware or whatever the customer wants to use."
Greaves said Carpathia considered several storage strategies before settling on ParaScale. He ruled out buying a traditional storage-area network (SAN) because his company doesn't own its data centers.
"We're tenants of building owners," he said. "We're in nine data centers and SANs are the opposite of portable – you put EMC in, take a few floor tiles down and you're stuck with it at that location. It's also overkill with expense and performance."
NAS was another option, but Greaves said it doesn't scale granularly enough for his needs. After selecting a cloud model, Carpathia considered EMC Atmos but Greaves said ParaScale was more amenable to working with his company on their particular needs.
"Our usage patterns are different than somebody doing content management or genomics," he said. "What we really liked about ParaScale was their ability to work with us on our requirements. EMC is an 800-pound gorilla, and you're somewhat held to their roadmap."
Greaves has made his requests for ParaScale's roadmap, including a wish for the ability to scale over the wide-area network (WAN) instead of on a network backbone between sites. "We talked to them about engaging customers in multiple locations of the WAN and what that might look like," he said. "They've been willing to embrace our requirements."
Hardware partners would help
Noemi Greyzdorf, research manager, storage software at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, said ParaScale has built a flexible utility storage model.
"I don't like the term cloud storage because it means so many things," she said. "They've built the capability where you can have a pool of faster storage vs. slower storage, and you can have a single storage system with different classes of storage in it. Think of their cloud as a very efficient, high-utilization storage environment that you can consume as a utility depending on your needs."
Greyzdorf said ParaScale's chances of success depend upon what kind of a partner ecosystem it puts together.
"They will need to develop go-to-market partnerships with hardware vendors and the channel beyond a direct-sales model," she said.
Krishnan said ParaScale is in the early stages of discussions with hardware vendors about bundling PCS.