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NexentaStor reaches out to the enterprise with high availability

Claiming 300 customers, Nexenta is looking to appeal to more traditional enterprise data centers with the addition of new HA features for Sun's open-storage ZFS in NexentaStor 2.0.

Nexenta Systems Inc. is adding automated high availability (HA) and 24/7 phone support to its NexentaStor 2.0 product as the company looks to boost the appeal of its ZFS and OpenSolaris-based data storage products for traditional enterprises.

NexentaStor combines Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Zettabyte File System (ZFS) and OpenSolaris operating system with an Ubuntu Linux user interface, and adds usability and data protection features for the open-source file system with its own software. According to Nexenta CEO Evan Powell, the company has collected 400 installations of its NexentaStor software since the community first launched in April 2008 at about 300 separate customer sites.

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Version 2.0 is Nexenta's attempt to "cross the chasm" between the open-source community and the traditional enterprise. Chief among these new features is the ability to perform fully automated two-way high availability between ZFS server nodes. Nexenta has already made synchronous replication and manual failover available for ZFS, which doesn't offer those features natively, Powell said. With the release of Nexenta's High Availability 1.0 software, failover and failback to the secondary server can happen without human intervention.

HA 1.0 supports two-way clustering today. Powell said there are plans to add n-way or scale-out clustering, "but there's no date for that yet."

Powell also said Nexenta was adding what it calls "gold-level" support, or 24/7 tech support availability by phone and a four-hour on-site response time. "They may not buy gold, but they want to know we are able to offer it," he said of potential enterprise customers.

Nexenta is also introducing new modules for Windows-based backup of workstations to ZFS, called Deloreon 1.0; and Target 1.0, which allows hosts to connect through ZFS using the block-based iSCSI protocol with support for virtual volumes, or ZVOLS on ZFS. These modules will be available at no extra cost to users until Aug. 15. Finally, version 2.0 of Nexenta's VM Data Center adds support for Xen virtual machines. Hyper-V support will come in mid-August, Powell said.

Nexenta is one of a few companies developing advanced features for ZFS; another ISV, greenBytes, has added features like drive spin-down and data deduplication in what it calls ZFS+. NexentaStor is OEMed by OnStor for its Pantera LS 2100 series.

Even as Nexenta looks to take its hardware-agnostic, open-source software to, as Powell put it, "end storage vendor lock-in" among traditional enterprises, traditional enterprise vendors are embracing commodity, scale-out, and in some cases (like OnStor), open-standards-based storage in an effort to appeal to the Web 2.0 world.

Illuminata analyst John Webster said there's probably room for both. "Some of the guys who have hacked together open-source storage at some point in time will not get absolutely everything they need through those methods," he said. "They may have to bring in some enterprise storage at some point. Meanwhile, enterprises' budgets are under stress, and they have to start finding ways to use more of the storage they've already bought, and should take a serious look at the open-source community and what they're providing."

Webster also pointed out that the Nexenta product, though it has Sun's blessing, could be competitive with the Amber Road packaged open-storage products Sun released last year. While Amber Road software (previously known as FISHworks) is sold bundled with Sun server hardware, NexentaStor is hardware-agnostic. "It's like a software version of Amber Road that can run on anything," he said.

"ZFS can be tough to use from a manageability standpoint," said Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) analyst Terri McClure in an email to "NexentaStor helps but there are a couple areas where it needs work: Using CIFS in a complex Active Directory environment can be a little difficult and is a known ZFS issue -- it needs to be simplified, and for big enterprises that's pretty important. And NexentaStor does not have integrated deduplication, though it does work with third-party deduplication appliances. Integrated deduplication is becoming a file server checkbox item."


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