Cleversafe combines storage and CDN for multimedia clouds

Startup Cleversafe's dsNet dispersed storage systems can now also act as a content delivery network, optimizing the performance of file retrieval over the Web.

Dispersed storage startup Cleversafe Inc. is touting a new capability for its dsNet storage appliances—the ability to act as a content delivery network (CDN) as well as a geographically distributed storage system.

Cleversafe's storage systems already split data into "slices" across a user-configurable number of nodes. The new Cleversafe Smart Client also takes into account network performance before retrieving slices over the network. It's similar to a traditional CDN, according to Julie Bellanca, director of marketing and communications.

However, a traditional CDN "is more of a centralized brain model, which tells a particular server on the network to stream a file in its entirety," she said. "The Smart Client decentralizes that intelligence of the CDN." This means each new slice of a file can be retrieved from a different server. In the traditional model, "if there's a network interruption, the client is pointed to another server to find the file again," Bellanca said.

The feature is meant to boost the appeal of Cleversafe's product in the media and entertainment space, where it has won some VARs and a nonprofit in its home territory of Chicago, but otherwise has yet to announce much customer momentum in the market.

"I think this product will find its niche, and it may turn out to be a larger niche than many people think," said John Webster, principal IT analyst at Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc. "It's a very interesting content distribution model, especially if you want to deliver lots of small things, which is important to media companies and telcos looking to support wireless apps."

Bellanca said this release is only the foundation for what the company hopes to do with the product going forward. "We still need to do more testing on how it scales out performance, particularly in the top end," she said.

Cleversafe is adding support for 1 TB drives within its Slicestor storage nodes, bumping its maximum to 4 TB raw. The company also claims its Accesser performance nodes offer 30% more performance than the previous generation, and that the new Manager nodes can manage up to 100 devices – three times the previous limit.

In addition, the company is launching a beta of a new object interface based on the Representational State Transfer (REST) API. A Java-based software development kit (SDK) is also being released. With this move, Cleversafe would join several other scale-out vendors on the market in supporting object rather than file system interfaces. "File systems reach an upper limit of capacity," Bellanca said. "With media files, their relation to one another as in a file system is less important because you're using the application to manage meta data." Supporting CIFS and NFS file systems is still on the roadmap, she added.

Object-based storage has been talked about for a long time, according to Illuminata's Webster, but "it could be its time has come—the older methods were good enough, but with unstructured data growing, now people can see a time when it won't be good enough."

Still, supporting that object-based interface for dsNet requires the use of the SDK to develop an independent application at this point. While Cleversafe seems to be spurring interest in the open-source community, the SDK approach is still "a little complex," Webster said. "It's still sort of bleeding-edge stuff and not for the faint of heart."

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