ParaScale Cloud Storage provides clustered file storage for on-premise or hosted clouds. Jack Norris, ParaScale's vice president of marketing, said the synchronous replication support will now allow its do-it-yourself clusters built on commodity servers to run applications, including live virtual machines.
ParaScale's software runs in user space on Red Hat or CentOS distributions of Linux, which allows it to support different types of x86 servers in one cluster, including heterogeneous models within the same storage pool. Because the software runs in user space, the new synchronous replication means ParaScale's clustered NAS systems can serve as a backup target for virtual machine images, and also boot and run live virtual servers from the cluster while maintaining data consistency for attached applications. Version 2 adds synchronous replication to up to eight different targets, so it can continue replicating as the virtual machine is being written to. Synchronous replication between nodes means all data is kept current within the virtual machine.
ParaScale is also expanding the type of information it will report and monitor on, including self-healing processes among the parallelized nodes in the event of a failure. Previously, PCS would recover data of a failed node and move the IP address. Now it will proactively ship event logs for those nodes to ParaScale service engineers for support.
"The old support model where you get on the phone with a level 1 and then a level 2 tech and then have to do data collection before you even start looking at the issue is broken," Norris said. "This allows us to automatically collect the information and push it. Users can either look at the data that we're pushing, or if they call ParaScale support, they'll have all the data they need for diagnosis."
An early adopter of ParaScale's software, Jon Greaves, chief technology officer at cloud service provider Carpathia Hosting in Ashburn, Va., said he's already set up applications such as antivirus and a content delivery network to run on his ParaScale cluster. "It allows us to distribute antivirus activity rather than having it go through one ingest server for multiple clients," Greaves said. At 22 PB of user data and counting, this distribution is important to maintain performance in his environment, Greaves said.
Greaves said he welcomes the new synchronous replication, mainly for disaster recovery (DR) over the wide-area network (WAN). "I'd like to see them add support for WAN optimization within the product or integrate more tightly with WAN acceleration devices," he said. He's also looking for the ability to trigger virtual machine snapshots automatically from the ParaScale cluster.
Some cloud service provider companies, including online backup player Carbonite Inc., have been wary of deploying pre-packaged cloud storage products and consider software part of their own competitive differentiation. But Greaves said while Carpathia Hosting does have internal programming expertise, working with ParaScale has saved it from having to build the basics from scratch. "We're not in the software development business," Greaves said.
ParaScale's model stands in contrast to a recent trend among storage vendors like Cisco Systems Inc., EMC Corp. and VMware Inc. to offer pre-integrated, pre-configured stacks of hardware and software for cloud storage deployments. John Webster, senior partner at Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Evaluator Group Inc., said he sees both ends of the integration spectrum being popular going forward.
"It depends on whether users are sensitive to capital expenditures or operating expenses," he said. ParaScale's software-only and commodity hardware approach will appeal to the former group. "If you feel you can't manage the technical complexities or you don't have time, you might be willing to pay up for people to pre-integrate a system for you," Webster said. "Both needs exist in the marketplace."