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Sanbolic gives Melio clustered file system a distributed architecture

Switching to a distributed architecture lets Sanbolic Melio 5 provide high availability for storage on commodity hardware with flash and hard drives.

Sanbolic Inc. today launched its Melio 5 clustered file system and volume manager software with a new distributed architecture to turn commodity hardware into scale-out storage systems that take advantage of such flash resources as PCI Express cards and solid-state drives.

Melio 5 is host-based distributed software that creates storage nodes on commodity hardware, then clusters the nodes and provides RAID data protection capabilities for high availability. Melio 5 is designed to scale up to 2,048 nodes or 65,000 storage devices.

Melio began by supporting virtual and physical servers in 2007, and Sanbolic added support for PCI Express (PCIe) flash cards and solid-state drives (SSDs) in October 2012. By moving to a distributed model in Version 5, Sanbolic can help enterprises avoid a single point of failure for devices with PCIe flash, solid-state storage and spinning disk.

"Existing storage technologies, both in terms of storage management as well as data management, aren't really designed to address the performance or the distributed architecture of what flash and SSDs today present," Sanbolic CEO Momchil Michailov said.

Melio 5 identifies and aggregates all system hard disk drive and solid-state storage resources to create tiered storage levels with solid-state and spinning disk to balance performance, capacity and costs.

By aggregating server-side PCIe flash cards and SSDs, Melio 5 can place persistent data within servers, or use the solid-state resources as caches. It can act as a caching manager to cache frequently used data dynamically or according to policy.

Servers running Melio 5 share volumes and use data in the shared volumes to recover lost or corrupted data. Melio 5 also maintains cache coherency to keep cached data consistent across nodes. As a file system and SAN volume manager, Melio 5 provides concurrent read and write access to multiple devices and virtual machines.

Eric Slack, senior analyst at Storage Switzerland, said he believes Sanbolic's experience developing the Melio platform has enabled the company to develop this distributed system the right way. "They already have the SAN file system and volume manager, which is really foundational technology to make this kind of distributed, high-availability kind of architecture really work," he said.

According to Slack, Sanbolic's strategy of using commodity hardware could mean substantial savings for users. "Servers have been commoditized, and server-side hardware, like disk drives, have been commoditized," he said. "But storage hardware, like primary storage arrays, have not. To a large extent, the profit margins on those things are a lot higher. You spend a lot more on an enterprise storage array than you would on server-based hardware."

Slack said that the success of Melio 5 and its distributed architecture may depend on how much risk companies are willing to take in moving from a traditional SAN architecture. "More and more people are understanding that these [advanced] features are software features," he said.

Sanbolic is headed down the path toward what many in the industry are calling software-defined storage, but the firm's Michailov said he avoids that term. "We're staying away from calling it software-defined storage because there are so many definitions of that out there that even I don't know what it is," he said.

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