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Startup CloudByte wants to improve cloud storage QoS with ElastiStor

CloudByte chases service providers and heavily virtualized enterprises with software that gives application-specific storage Quality of Service.

Newcomer CloudByte is pushing software that provides Quality of Service for key storage capabilities separately for each application. CloudByte bills its ZFS-based ElastiStor software as the storage building block for "new age" data centers used to run clouds and virtual machines.

This month CloudByte hired CEO Greg Goelz, who previously was general manager of SanDisk's enterprise solid-state drive business, and closed a $4 million funding round. It released ElastiStor software as a beta in January, and Goelz said CloudByte has customers using it in production.

Goelz said ElastiStor can help organizations put data in the cloud without sacrificing performance.

"Performance in the cloud is still in stage 1 -- people are doing backup and recovery, simple stuff," he said. "But if you want to move data analytics, databases or your critical applications into the cloud, people are still trying to figure out how to do it while getting the same response as they get in the data center."

ElastiStor software guarantees Quality of Service (QoS) to every application from a shared storage platform and plugs into cloud and virtualized environments with management and analytics built in. ElastiStor is based on open source ZFS, but CloudByte built more advanced features on top.

It gets features such as deduplication, compression and thin provisioning from ZFS and supports NAS, iSCSI and Fibre Channel storage protocols.

ElastiStor delivers guaranteed QoS IOPS, throughput and latency. CloudByte founder and chief technology officer Felix Xavier said the software delivers tailored performance to every application, removing the need for application-specific storage. He claims that ElastiStor can scale to thousands of applications, meeting the needs of cloud providers.

"How do you take shared storage and let each application have the performance profile it needs without overprovisioning each of the VMs [virtual machines]?" Goelz said. "We meet each VM's performance requirement."

Within each ElastiStor node, virtual storage controllers are assigned to each application. Each controller is configured to deliver capacity, IOPS, throughput and latency for that app. For high availability, the virtual controllers can move between storage nodes and sites, and admins can provision, monitor and control storage resources to any app at any site from one console.

To facilitate use in cloud and virtual platforms, CloudByte REST APIs and plug-ins allow provisioning and management of QoS-aware VMs from VMware ESXi, Citrix XenServer, Citrix CloudStack and OpenStack Cinder.

ElastiStor has built-in multi-tenancy and levels of administrative permissions. An admin can be given management of a complete cluster or resources can be allotted to one cloud customer.

Greg Schulz, StorageIO senior analyst, said he installed ElastiStor in his laboratory for testing and found that it works as advertised, although the company name can be confusing because the software is not cloud-specific. Schulz said that while ElastiStor can be used to build a cloud service, it can serve just as well in an on-premises storage stack.

"It's a classic example of a company whose name doesn't serve it justice," he said. "But the product name is spot on -- it's truly elastic storage. Can you use it to deploy regular block storage? Absolutely. NFC, CIFS? Yes. In front of a regular JBOD or arrays? Yes. It has extensibility that a lot of vendors say they will get to eventually, and they have it in the base product."

Schulz said the differences between ElastiStor and other ZFS software products include ease of use and VMware integrations that CloudByte built in.

Still, ElastiStor is in its early days and there is more work to be done.

"What they need to add or enhance is back-end integration with Amazon S3 or Rackspace," Schulz said. "They need to have more integration with Microsoft Hyper-V, continue to extend VMware capabilities into DRS [Storage Distributed Resource Scheduler] or VASA, and then do similar things with cloud services."

He compared ElastiStor to Hewlett-Packard's LeftHand SAN/iQ software, but for more than just iSCSI. Schulz also suggested that CloudByte look for hardware partners to sell ElastiStor on pre-packaged appliances. Goelz said he is already exploring that, although ElastiStor is offered as software-only now.

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