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PowerFile launches optical Hybrid Storage Appliance

PowerFile's Hybrid Storage Appliance, a combination of hard drives and Blu-Ray for long-term archiving, hopes to break the hold disk and tape have on the enterprise storage market.

PowerFile Corp. is still betting on optical media for long-term archiving, and this week launched what it calls its Hybrid Storage Appliance (HSA) that combines SAS drives as a cache with a Blu-Ray disc library.

The quad-core HSA is aimed at the enterprise, with more capacity and speed than PowerFile's Active Archive Appliance (A3) system for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

PowerFile CEO Kirk Dunn said the HSA has a completely new architecture, with up to 16 processing cores (compared to four for the A3) and up to 48 TB of SAS disk cache to speed data ingest and access. The Hybrid Storage Appliance's grid architecture also supports 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) compared to multiple Gigabit Ethernet ports on the A3. The HSA holds up to 500 TB in a 42U rack.

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The system's new HybridOS file system provides WORM, retention management, volume replication, mirroring and thin provisioning. "It was built from the ground up for archiving," Dunn said.

Dunn said there's a place for optical in enterprise storage archives, although most organizations have chosen to employ spinning disk to end or decrease their reliance on tape. Dunn envisions HSA forming another layer that companies can use to move inactive data off expensive tier 1 disk.

"We're amazed at how many of our customers are leaving unchanging data on Fibre Channel [disk]," he said. "If disk were super reliable, tape would go away."

Dunn said HSA lets customers make multiple copies and take one offsite, or replicate over the wide-area network (WAN) for an offsite copy while spending less money and using less power than disk requires. He said HSA will have a street price of less than $2 per GB, including cost of the system, replication and maintenance.

Optical's future in enterprise storage

But optical has been a tough sell. Plasmon, which competed with PowerFile on the low end, went out of business in January. However, advances in the media continue and General Electric Co. recently said it developed a 500 GB DVD-sized disc that can hold as much capacity as 100 DVDs.

"There's a spot out there in certain markets for optical media," said Jeff Boles, senior analyst and director, validation services at Hopkinton, Mass.-based Taneja Group. "Plasmon survived for a long time off that. Plasmon's demise opened up the market, and maybe the GE announcement helps. There are some opportunities there."

Boles said he doesn't expect optical to replace disk for archiving, but it will likely have a place in certain markets.

"Optical media has been here for a long time and will be here for a long time to come, but I expect disk to do better in the long run," he said. "There are niche markets for optical media, but disk is demonstrated fast, easily understood and better known than optical."

He continued, "If you have records or compliance demands that demand long-term [100 years] storage, I think cost favors optical media. There are use cases out there, and it will weigh in as a viable contender for [EMC] Centerra in a lot of cases."

Dunn added that PowerFile has done well in the health care market, and will go after post-production video shops with the HSA.

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