StorSimple integrates primary data deduplication, automated tiers with cloud storage

The StorSimple Hybrid Storage Appliance is optimized for Microsoft applications and claims to perform primary data deduplication and automatically tier data across SSDs to cloud data storage.

StorSimple Inc. is emerging from stealth today to preview a public cloud storage appliance optimized for Microsoft applications that performs primary data deduplication and compression, and automatically tiers data across solid-state and SATA drives.

The StorSimple Hybrid Storage Appliance is in beta tests and scheduled for release in the third quarter of 2010, according to CEO and founder Ursheet Parikh. The appliance's hardware consists of a mix of tiered hardware, including a DRAM-based write cache, Flash solid-state drives (SSDs) from Intel Corp., and SATA hard disk drives. It connects to hosts using Gigabit Ethernet iSCSI.

The software integrates with Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint APIs, pulling binary large objects (BLOBs) out of SharePoint and Exchange databases for storage within the appliance. StorSimple takes application-consistent snapshots of Microsoft applications and the Windows file system through its Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) integration.

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Parikh said the Hybrid Storage Appliance performs block-level data deduplication using the write cache and Flash tier to reduce latency. StorSimple's deduplication uses a model called concurrent processing, which deduplicates data just after it lands on the top-performing tier of the system while other data is still being written.

Once written to the system, a feature StorSimple calls the Weighted Storage Layout (WSL) breaks data blocks down into even finer chunks weighed according to frequency of access.

From there, customers have three choices for policy-based management of the system. It can serve as local storage and make snapshot backups to the cloud or replicate data to a public cloud storage service such as Amazon's S3, Microsoft Azure or EMC's Atmos OnLine, or it can cache active data locally while storing most of it in the cloud. (Another startup, Nasuni Corp., has a similar capability, but at the file level through a NAS interface.)

If a customer chooses the snapshot option, a feature called CloudClone will send one compressed and deduplicated full snapshot image to the cloud tier, and from there send incremental changes to the cloud daily. The snapshot can be mounted like any other snapshot, Parikh said.

StorSimple, which received an $8.2 million Series A funding round last year, has its management roots in the networking space. CEO Parikh previously worked at Andiamo, which developed Cisco Systems Inc.'s MDS Fibre Channel (FC) switches and was acquired by Cisco Systems inc. in 2002. After the acquisition, Parikh worked on Cisco's WAN optimization business. StorSimple's other founder, president Guru Pangal, founded Rhapsody Networks and then worked at Brocade Communications Systems after it acquired Rhapsody. Former Cisco senior vice president and current Arista Networks CEO Jayshree Ullal sits on StorSimple's board of directors.

Luring enterprises to cloud data storage

StorSimple isn't disclosing the exact number of beta sites currently testing the appliance, but Convergent Computing president and Exchange 2010 consultant Rand Morimoto said he's working with "more than one and less than 10" companies to deploy the product.

"Microsoft is offering native replication for Exchange 2010, but no one has been able to get that data to the cloud yet," he said. "We're working with five-, 10-, and 50,000-[Exchange] seat customers who are interested in using this."

While StorSimple's Parikh said is the company is looking to become a replacement for traditional primary SAN storage in many shops, Morimoto said he doesn't see enterprises offloading all of their critical data to a new product, particularly not while it's still in beta. "The goal is to move it closer to the primary tier, but we'll need to stop calling it a beta product so enterprises can put it into full production," he said.

StorSimple is also up against enterprises' general reluctance to embrace cloud data storage.

"We realize our technical capabilities may be ahead of customer acceptance," Parikh said. "But that's why we're offering the ability for users to define policies to use the appliance as a primary tier or keep everything local and just use CloudClones."


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