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Exablox unveils OneBlox object-based NAS

Startup Exablox claims its object storage OneBlox can simplify scale-out NAS for small companies with a ring architecture, built-in dedupe and CDP.

Exablox this week launched its first product, a scale-out file system appliance that uses object storage as its underlying technology with built-in inline deduplication and continuous data protection that targets small to medium-sized businesses.

The OneBlox is a 2U appliance that Exablox claims can be installed and configured in approximately five minutes. The system scales to six nodes that are added dynamically in a ring-type peer-to-peer architecture that shares data in a circular fashion rather than the master-slave-type configuration used by traditional file systems. Each node added to the ring is automatically recognized.

"There are only peers, so any node can be added or removed easily," said Sean Derrington, Exablox's senior director of products. "If an organization has four rings, there are four file systems or global namespaces that applications can access. You can have many applications or users getting information on a ring."

OneBlox is sold without drives so customers can populate the nodes with their choice of SATA, SAS or solid-state drives. The system does not support auto-tiering in this first release, Derrington said, because it is not aimed at I/O-intensive applications. One node supports between three to eight drives, while a ring supports up to 48 drives.

"In other words, it's a free-for-all," said Doug Brockett, Exablox's CEO. "You can put whatever you want, wherever you want. You don't have to worry about LUNs [logical unit numbers] or volumes. It's all managed as a single pool of capacity."

Exablox's system is based on a distributed, object-based file system. The object storage uses a Secure Hash Algorithm, where each file is split into three objects and spread across three drives or nodes. That way, a file can be restored even if two nodes are lost.

OneBlox has a cloud-based, multi-tenant management service called OneSystem that allows browser-based storage management. The system uses continuous data protection to allow users to recover the last write, while synchronous replication is done on meta data and asynchronous replication is done on files. Organizations can use the system as a disk-to-disk backup target.

"Replication can be done from one site to another for disaster recovery," Brockett said. "We will make a copy of everything in one site to the second site; both sides can read and write."

All data on the OneBlox is encrypted with Advanced Encryption Standard 256.

A 32 TB OneBlox configuration that includes all software except for remote replication is priced under $10,000, while a 64 TB disaster recovery configuration starts at less than $40,000. Remote replication software is priced on a per-node basis.

Exablox announced in December it had raised $22 million in funding from DCM, Norwest Venture Partners and US Venture Partners. It currently has 38 employees and will focus on an all-channel sales model.

Terri McClure, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said Exablox is taking a different approach with its scale-out network-attached storage (NAS) system. She said others in the space have usually started by going after high-performance computing and then expanding to other markets such as medical, oil and gas, and genomics.

"This product is really bringing the benefits of scale-out NAS to the SMB [small and medium-sized business] market," she said. "Exablox has no LUNs, no volumes or RAID groups. So, unlike traditional scale-out NAS, you don't have to hire a specialist storage administrator."

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