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ScaleIO emerges with cloud storage software

ScaleIO's software aggregates independent servers into a storage network, removing the need for SANs for cloud storage and managed service providers.

ScaleIO came out of stealth today with its Elastic Converged Storage software, which the vendor claims eliminates the need for a SAN for cloud service providers and enterprises.

Elastic Converged Storage (ECS) agents install on servers running hypervisors, databases and other applications. The software aggregates capacity on those servers, turning them into a large storage network. The concept is similar to the virtual storage appliance (VSA) approach taken by Hewlett-Packard's StoreVirtual VSA, built on LeftHand technology and VMware's vSphere Storage Appliance, but those products are for small- and medium-sized businesses and small enterprises.

ScaleIO CEO Boaz Palgi said one early customer is using ECS on 260 nodes, and he claimed it can scale to thousands of nodes. Customers can add nodes on the fly and the software will automatically rebalance performance, he said.

"We're completely elastic," Palgi said. "You can add, move and remove application servers on the fly during IO operation without having to think about the product being there. The last thing you want to do is force an application administrator to change the way they work."

Palgi said ECS takes a new approach to managing storage. He said traditional storage area networks (SANs) either use a centrally managed system or a symmetric model where all the nodes are identical and require a quorum to make a decision. He said the centrally managed system can turn into a bottleneck while the symmetric method can cause failures when there are too many nodes that have to make common decisions.

He said ECS uses a "distributed knowledge system" that does not require all nodes to be the same and does not require a quorum to make decisions.

Palgi said ECS has been available in limited release since early this year. He said 24 customers are running pilot implementations and five customers are in production with the software. ScaleIO's press release lists SAP, Check Point Software Technologies, Aer Lingus, OCF plc and The Colt Group as early adopters.

If ECS works as advertised, it will likely be more appealing to public cloud storage and managed service providers than enterprises. Service providers are more server-centric than enterprises, which are more comfortable with SAN and network-attached storage (NAS) implementations, and have the resources to manage them.

"Service providers have walls and walls of servers, so it's the more obvious place for ScaleIO to go," said Henry Baltazar, senior storage analyst for 451 Research. "They can use ECS to carve out virtual servers. With the enterprise, it's more of a political issue. People are used to buying SANs from EMC or NetApp, or whoever. But people are also starting to embrace the storage as software aspect, and you'll be seeing big guys come out with virtual versions of their arrays. NetApp already has a VSA."

Baltazar said no other established vendor is doing what ScaleIO promises, although VMware plans to drastically scale up its VSA platform over time. He said most vendors that ScaleIO will compete with are selling object storage, but ScaleIO is handling traditional block storage. He said public cloud storage providers who want to compete with Amazon will need both types of storage.

"There's not that many doing this in the block segment," he said. "Ultimately, the block and object players will have to partner up. Amazon has block and object storage, and to compete with Amazon you'll need both."

Startup Yottabyte, which launched in October, sells perhaps the most similar product to ScaleIO, but Yottabyte uses an operating system as opposed to ScaleIO's agent approach.

ScaleIO also said it raised $12 million in a Series A funding round, with Greylock Partners, Norwest Venture Partners (NVP) and private investors.

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