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Bycast upgrades StorageGRID software for better grid performance

Bycast adds clustered NAS gateways, security, chargeback and support for VMware virtual servers to its StorageGRID object-based software.

Bycast Inc. is looking to broaden the customer base of its object-based StorageGRID software beyond the medical archiving market by adding clustered NAS gateways and support for security partitions, chargeback and VMware virtual servers.

StorageGRID previously supported NAS gateways for access to its storage systems, which use metadata and policies to organize data over geographically distributed locations, rather than hierarchical file systems. The new version, StorageGRID 8, uses IBM's GPFS to support n-way clustering of those gateways to boost the performance of accessing files within large archives. Depending on the server hardware customers use for the gateways, the archive can now offer throughput up to 1 GBps.

Earlier this year, Bycast and OEM partner Iron Mountain launched a hosted version of Bycast's Medical Archiving System for healthcare providers. For this type of deployment, StorageGRID now supports separate security partitions so users in a multitenant environment can't see and access the entire grid. Chargeback and reporting data will also be generated and can be fed into Crystal Reports or Excel spreadsheet software.

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Bycast has focused on medical archiving until now, but CEO Moe Kermani said the core architecture can also serve other industries. "There are large and growing collections of reference data files in many industries, including digital media, oil and gas, and energy, which we define as files that are rarely changed but need access over time," Kermani said.

Customers of third-party service providers can now use a standalone gateway without the need for local SAN storage with StorageGRID 8. Secondary gateways – copies of the gateway appliance kept in case a customer's local gateway goes down – can run on virtual machines to cut down on the hardware footprint at service provider data centers.

StorageGRID 8 can also have wider appeal for current customers. Liz Deveraux, Banner Health director of IT and digital imaging, said StorageGRID 8 will make it possible to separate data by department and project.

Similarly, Banner is looking to use the chargeback and partitions to put data on hold for e-discovery in a separate segment of the grid. "It's hard to exception single files in most environments -- it would be easier to move them to a different partition," Deveraux said, adding that more flexibility in changing grid policies on the fly would be ideal.

EMC cloud system a possible rival

Bycast got a new potential competitor last week when EMC launched its Atmos cloud storage system. However, while Bycast's clustered gateways allow customers to blend primary and archival storage infrastructures, it still focuses mainly on persistent data storage. Atmos is better suited for geographically distributed delivery of current file-based data.

Atmos is also currently packaged with hardware, while Bycast is compatible with existing block-based storage systems. "Anything that attaches to an x86 server through a block interface is something we support, whether disk storage subsystems, tape drives or MAID arrays," Kermani said.

Analyst Michael Peterson of the Strategic Research Group said Atmos is the latest approach to virtualize primary storage, while Bycast "is a federated information repository that virtualizes that secondary tier of long-term persistent storage."

But some other industry experts say those distinctions themselves are blurring. "What is cloud storage but an active archive? I would not necessarily call Atmos primary tier 1 storage," said ESG's Terri McClure. "The lines are blurring between archive and web 2.0 repository - both are about storing and accessing persistent data."

StorageGRID and Atmos both can be useful for service providers specifically focused on long-term data. But for now, direct competition between the products would be "a byproduct of their product development. I don't think it's necessarily an indication of the direction they're going in," said analyst Mike Karp, Enterprise Management Associates.

Peterson said he also viewed the clustered gateways as a way for high-performance computing (HPC) shops to get into long-term retention of reference files. "In that market, every time they look at long-term retention repositories they say, 'We can't use that, we need more performance,'" he said.

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