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Caringo breaks out CAS mark II

Is it a new tango, a salutation at a worldwide wrestling contest, a weird Australian animal or yet another fixed-content storage company?

Content-addressed storage (CAS) inventor, Paul Carpentier is back with a new company, Caringo Inc., to deliver on the promise of his first product, which he claims was never realized once EMC Corp. acquired it.

Carpentier, who is based in Belgium, sold FilePool to EMC in 2001 for a little under $50 million in cash. FilePool's product became Centera, EMC's CAS system, installed in over 2,000 shops with more than 100 resellers now selling the product.

"Centera is a bad example of CAS, but a good decision by EMC," Carpentier claims. "It's the fastest growing product line at the company and they were able to quickly respond to an opportunity that they didn't have … I am very proud that my original company, FilePool, was one of the first to get attention, but there's still a long way to go."

Enter Caringo, named after the three founders: Carpentier, chief technology officer; Jonathan Ring, president; and Mark Goros, CEO. Ring hails from Siebel Systems where he was vice president of engineering, and Goros was most recently a general partner at Equip Ventures.

"They have some interesting DNA, a lot of experience and the ability to improve and refine on the first generation, but it's a lot of hype right now," according to Greg Schulz, founder and analyst of the Storage I/O Group.

Caringo's product, CAStor, has three notable features that differentiate it from Centera. It provides a patent pending upgradable hashing scheme, an HTTP interface and is hardware agnostic. Centera meanwhile, uses one hashing algorithm, MD5 to create a unique identifier for each object stored in the system. However, this was recently cracked by some scientists in China.

"MD5 has become suspect -- you can't use it to make any kind of assertion about the integrity of the data," Carpentier claims. Caringo employs a flexible hashing scheme that can be upgraded through software keys over time as newer, stronger hashes come out. A compliance option is available to users who want to stay abreast of the strongest algorithms.

Unlike Centera, which uses a proprietary API to talk to applications, CAStor uses HTTP 1.1, an industry standard protocol. EMC added a gateway to Centera to allow users to access Centera objects via open systems protocols like CIFS, NFS, HTTP and FTP, but it's a separate box that some users have found causes a bottleneck.

Caringo's third claim to fame is that its product is hardware agnostic. The software is sold on a bootable USB flash drive that plugs into any X86 hardware with a gigabyte or more of RAM, one or more hard drives and Gigabit Ethernet. The first version of the product will scale to a 500-node cluster, each node providing 2 terabytes of storage.

Schulz notes that all CAS software is really hardware agnostic -- it just comes packaged with certain hardware to provide a solution. "The software-on-a-stick idea is cute, but then you have to go to CDW [Corp.] and buy a PC and put the thing together." He says Caringo will need partners to turn its offering into a real product.

Carpentier agrees and says the company will be announcing a partner program in a month and expects to have a couple of names to announce by then.

Caringo's product must also be matched up against other CAS startups that have made considerable strides in this market already. Archivas Inc. recently announced an OEM deal with Hitachi Data Systems Inc.; BiCast has several hundred customers and Nexsan Technologies Ltd.'s Assureon product is gaining traction. Permabit Inc. is another software-only play and Symantec Corp. (Veritas) and Sun Microsystems Inc. (StorageTek) also sell CAS products.

"Caringo feels like an unfinished product, it's a little rushed, there's no information on betas, no information on funding, it looks a like a to me," said an analyst briefed on the product, who requested anonymity.

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