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Nexenta Systems pushes NexentaStor forward with open storage and ZFS

Beth Pariseau

Nexenta Systems Inc. is sticking with Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Zettabyte File System (ZFS) despite uncertainty around the open-source file format, and recently upgraded its NexentaStor unified storage software based on ZFS and Sun's OpenSolaris.

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NexentaStor lets organizations run CIFS, NFS, iSCSI and Fibre Channel (FC) storage on commodity hardware. NexentaStor 2.2 released last week adds a policy-based management application called Pomona, open virus scanning, database snapshot integration and Asian language search. NexentaStor 2.2 follows a "NexentaStor 2.0" July release that added automated high availability (HA) and 24/7 phone support.

Policy based Operations, Management and Optimization for NexentaStor Appliances -- or Pomona for short -- automates common storage tasks such as provisioning for NexentaStor and OpenSolaris-based network-attached storage (NAS) and iSCSI products, and LSI Corp. disk arrays.

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"ISPs and Web 2.0 users are using dozens of NexentaStor appliances but usually need between three and five common configurations of drive types and access protocols," said Evan Powell, CEO at Nexenta Systems.

Pomona lets customers define templates for "high-performance storage pools," for example. "All 10 to 15 choices would then come up for [configuration of] a high-performance pool. The user clicks save, and then an application administrator or user can say 'I need two of those,'" Powell said.

Web 2.0 developers can also write their own applications to manage NexentaStor through a new set of REST APIs. "It's just a matter of how they want to work with it," Powell said.

Another new set of APIs lets customers quiesce and run snapshots on Oracle and MySQL databases. This functionality was already there, but required scripts. An open-source virus scanning program, ClamAV, has also been added to the NexentaStor software. Nexenta Systems claims its products are the first OpenStorage products to be certified with both VMware Inc. and the Citrix Systems Inc. StorageLink program, which lets it support functionality like VMware's VMotion. The 128-bit ZFS file system isn't subject to hard limitations on the number of virtual machines that can be provisioned, Powell said.

While Nexenta Systems pushes on, ZFS itself is caught in acquisition limbo between Sun Microsystems and Oracle Corp. as European Union regulators hold up the deal. There's also litigation between Sun and rival NetApp Inc. over alleged infringement of ZFS patents. The uncertainty reportedly prompted Apple Inc. to drop it plans of porting ZFS to its Snow Leopard Mac OS X operating system.

Powell said NexentaStor software has 12,000 registered users, and that makes him less cautious than others when it comes to ZFS and NetApp's attempted injunction against ZFS distribution.

"A big cell phone maker's research center last week standardized on us using ZFS," he said. "As long as it's implemented in a critical mass of users, that horse has left the barn. The corporate guys can do what they want. The code is open source, and the community is strong and viable. There isn't a historic precedent for un-open-sourcing code."

Jefferson Nunn, IT director at Verizon cell phone retailer GoWireless Inc., said he's been using NexentaStor since July. He first came across Nexenta Systems when he was looking for a home NAS product, then brought it into discussions at work when his company needed another 5 TB of storage.

GoWireless already had a Compellent Technologies Inc. SAN, but Nunn said it cost less to expand storage with Nexenta Systems than expanding the SAN.

"The price comparison was that Compellent was charging $58,960 for a five terabyte expansion, while we were able to get 13 terabytes from Nexenta for $27,897," Nunn said. "It was cheaper but also came with more of a spindle count—48 drives instead of 16."

Nunn said he's happy to see Nexenta Systems advance the product, and he's not concerned about what might happen with Oracle-Sun or the lawsuits. "I just like that they continue to update the product line," he said. "Lawsuits always drag on forever and usually are settled out of court anyway. By the time they finally come to a decision we may already be using something else."

Nunn said he's been happy with Sun's OpenSolaris operating system. "It performs well and it's reliable, " he said. "We have servers we haven't had to reboot in years, and we've used ZFS in the past. I don't think you can kill innovation just with a lawsuit."


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