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Caringo CAStor adds 'Darkive' spin down, scores Dell OEM deal

Latest version of Caringo's CAStor object storage system includes power saving and Darkive spin down; Dell will incorporate Caringo technology in its DX Object Storage platform.

Caringo Inc. today upgraded its CAStor object storage software, adding a power-saving disk spin down feature called Darkive. The vendor also disclosed that it's an OEM partner for Dell Inc.'s new object storage platform.

Besides Darkive, CAStor 4's new features include improved scalability of its Content Router that moves data for disaster recovery (DR), the ability to append content to an object to create audit trails, immutable override that lets administrators override retention and deletion policies, and better reporting capability for its Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) that monitors CPUs, disk drives and other components.

Caringo also rolled out a software developer's kit (SDK) to make it easier for ISVs to write applications for CAStor.

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Caringo CEO Mark Goros said the goal was to automate processes whenever possible. "Storage is too boring for humans," he said. "We're always trying to get humans out of the equation."

Goros said Dell helped developed the power and cluster management and immutable override features, and said Dell is Caringo's "preferred OEM partner" for these capabilities.

Dell still isn't saying how big a role CAStor plays in the DX Object Storage platform it will begin shipping this week. Dell did not mention Caringo when it announced the object system in March.

When asked this week to clarify Caringo's role in the DX Object Storage platform, a Dell spokesman emailed the following statement: "Dell's DX Object Storage platform is a Dell-designed and engineered solution that encompasses Caringo as a part of it to give customers a fully scalable, easy to deploy object storage solution."

One customer running CAStor on Dell servers said Dell approached him about its new object storage system, but his current setup gives him what he needs at a lower price.

"We were like the guinea pigs for that Dell system, we have the hardware from Dell and software from Caringo," said Bas van Breukelen, assistant professor of bioinformatics at the Netherlands Proteomics Centre. "I know Dell will sell the appliance with everything in there, and the front-end server will have automatic configuration capabilities. We have to do more manually, which we don't mind. "

van Breukelen said he switched to CAStor late last year from an EMC Celerra NS500 NAS system. He said he looked at other EMC products as well as a Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. Ibrix cluster, but found Caringo's software less expensive and easier to scale.

"After a long search, it became obvious this is more flexible and has a more academic flavor because we can program directly to its API," he said. "It's more of an open system and people at the university like that."

van Breukelen said his organization -- a collaboration of research teams -- uses CAStor on two mirrored 64 TB clusters. The clusters hold research and published data that requires long-term retention from approximately 60 researchers.

Caringo puts a new spin on MAID

The biggest addition to CAStor 4 is Darkive, a feature that will spin down groups of disk drives based on user-set periods of inactivity to save power.

"You set parameters, and the drives will spin down and CPUs will drop in power utilization," Caringo's Goros said. "You can have archive nodes, we call them sub-clusters, that are spun down until the system runs low on space and then they are spun up."

Goros said Darkive supports any hard drive with spin-down capability. Caringo stays away from the MAID term for spin down popularized by Copan Systems Inc., which sold its assets to SGI last year.

"It's just another feature and function of CAStor," Goros said. "The entire cluster doesn't act this way, just a sub-cluster. MAID indicates an entire system of spin-down disk."

Caringo also removed the database from its Content Router and now stores metadata inside CAStor clusters. Goros said this improves CAStor's throughput and scalability.

Noemi Greyzdorf, research manager, storage software at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, said Caringo's object-based architecture gives it some advantages with spin down over RAID storage.

"The idea around spin down has been around for a long time, but because Caringo is object-based storage, it can place data on spin-down media more intelligently than a typical RAID system where you have to design LUNs and RAID sets that have to spin down on multiple data types," she said.

Greyzdorf said Caringo, which shipped the first version of CAStor in 2006, should get a boost from its Dell OEM deal.

"The relationship with Dell is going to go a long way toward helping them gain a lot more mindshare," she said, adding that Caringo could still benefit from capacity optimization and the type of geographic distribution support that startup Cleversafe's cloud storage is built on.

"Spin down is one way to reduce power consumption, and reducing footprint is another," she said. "Capacity optimization would be good for large archives. Also, Caringo could partner with data classification vendors or for search and organization capabilities. These are things you talk about with long-term archives. I'd also like to see them do more geographic distribution without having two separate clusters with replication in between."

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