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DataGravity's smart storage arrays add meaning to bits and bytes

At a time when most of the activity in the storage market seems to be focused on taking away as much intelligence as possible from physical storage devices, there’s one vendor bucking that trend. DataGravity, which recently emerged from stealth, rolled out a couple of new arrays that up the ante for data intelligence and management in a storage system.

DataGravity’s Discover Series comprises two unified arrays at this time: the DG2200 with 48 TB of combined flash and hard disk raw capacity and the DG2400 with twice that capacity. These are dual controller systems that support both block—iSCSI—and file (CIFS, SMB and NFS) storage. Both models are configured with what DataGravity refers to as 2U “computing” and 4U “storage” enclosures. DataGravity was founded by Paula Long, CEO and John Joseph, president; the two previously teamed up to create EqualLogic, the iSCSI storage pioneer that was acquired by Dell in 2007.

So far, these two boxes from DataGravity might sound like just about any other midsized array that mixes in a little solid state with hard disk storage—right? As unremarkable the hardware configurations might be, it’s the systems’ software that’s the real story here.

A while back in an editorial in Storage magazine (Data protection methods, define thyself), I suggested that stored data needed to carry more intelligence about itself. In the context of the editorial, that intelligence would be in the form of metadata that instructed data protection systems on how to handle that particular piece of data and what to do with.

DataGravity’s Discovery Series takes a different approach, but the results are pretty similar to the system I imagined. The differences are that DataGravity isn’t imagining it—it’s here now—and they pool the metadata the system gleans in a central repository as opposed to packing it in with the data itself.

The clever engineers at DataGravity realized that a key component of a high availability storage system—the secondary controller—spent much of its time sitting idle. They use the horsepower of the controller to index stored data and to parse that data into useful information about the file. DataGravity also does the usual stuff and keeps track of creation and modification events and who was responsible for those activities.

But the collected metadata reveals even more about the contents of the data, allowing searches for specific items such as “personally identifiable information“—or PII—that could include social security numbers, credit card numbers or email addresses. Information governance, whether internal corporate governance or compliance with legal regulations, is aided by the ability to do complex, sophisticated searches that can identify some of the interrelations among disparate files.

This deep dive into data can also help add another level of protection to the data itself. The DataGravity system can create DiscoveryPoints which keep track of all changes and activities related to a piece of data. DiscoveryPoints work like snapshots and allow recovery of previous versions of data if the primary copies become damaged or corrupted. One of the neat things about DiscoveryPoint is that data can be recovered at the file (even from a VM’s VMDK), VM, file system or LUN levels.

The Discovery Series is brand new, but it isn’t tough to envision it serving as a platform for archiving, data protection and disaster recovery systems. As DataGravity opens their APIs to other companies, those vendors will be able to hook into the boxes and integrate their capabilities on top of the data intelligence that DataGravity provides.

[DataGravity recently won a Best of VMworld 2014 Award for New Technology; the award was presented by TechTarget’s site.]

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