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Coraid EtherCloud Insight adds storage analytics for enterprises

Coraid EtherCloud Insight performs storage analysis with sensors inside servers and arrays to collect data on key metrics.

Coraid Inc. this week introduced its EtherCloud Insight server-to-storage analytics platform, which gives IT administrators the ability to monitor a system's performance and identify what part of the infrastructure is causing applications to slow down. The software is aimed at reducing application downtime and the need to overprovision storage.

EtherCloud Insight uses software sensors inside servers and Coraid storage systems to collect data on metrics, such as throughput, latency, IOPS, I/O patterns and block size. It aggregates the data and issues alerts of possible problems.

EtherCloud Insight only works with Coraid storage. A more important limitation is that it only works with physical servers, not virtual machines (VMs). Suda Srinivasan, Coraid's senior director of product marketing, said the vendor plans to extend the software to virtual environments.

"It's on the road map," Srinivasan said. "It's being worked on."

Coraid's EtherDrive products are based on a lightweight ATA over Ethernet protocol and standard Ethernet switches to handle block storage. The vendor claimed its systems perform better than iSCSI storage and at a lower price. Coraid positioned its EtherDrive SRX arrays as building blocks for a scale-out Ethernet storage architecture that's suited for cloud storage, big data, media backup and virtualized environments.

Coraid's EtherCloud software runs on EtherDrive storage, adding multi-tenancy, a RESTful API and policy-driven control over private cloud resources.

EtherCloud Insight works within the data path. Its sensors push data to an aggregation piece that runs on a VM. Administrators can set policies that dictate how often the data is aggregated and in what way so they are not overwhelmed with a mountain of information. For example, administrators may want to collect data on latency but set a policy that shows the running average, Srinivasan said.

Coraid does not have a dashboard for EtherCloud. It partners with software vendor Splunk to enable machine data analytics from Coraid storage through Splunk Enterprise. Splunk Enterprise performs data collection, indexing and analytics for EtherCloud.

"Right now we take statistics from aggregated percentages and show them in a standardized feed that is displayed on Splunk. Most of our customers use Splunk or Graphite so they can use open source visualization," Srinivasan said.

Srinivasan said cloud data centers supporting multitenant and diverse workloads often find it difficult to plan for the I/O needs of different applications and platforms. Enterprises and service providers often have to overprovision every layer of the stack, create multiple storage silos or install legacy performance analysis tools for each layer of the infrastructure.

"A lot of performance monitoring tools require intrusive instrumentation," Srinivasan said. "A lot of tools require you to drop an agent on the server and storage, which is time-consuming and expensive."

EtherCloud Insight will be priced based on the number of storage and server devices. It is expected to be available by the end of 2013.

Henry Baltazar, a senior analyst serving infrastructure and operations professionals at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., compared Coraid's EtherCloud Insight to storage analytics products such as Brocade's Network Monitoring Service, NetApp's OnCommand Balance (formerly Akorri) and Virtual Instruments' VirtualWisdom.

Each product approaches the problem in a different way. Like EtherCloud Insight, VirtualWisdom works in the data path. But VirtualWisdom pulls data from the packets in a Fibre Channel network from the servers out to the storage. OnCommand Balance works out of the data path and collects data metrics by talking to various management tools. Brocade's Network Monitoring Service works within the switch and operates in the data path.

"They are all trying to get into that granularity that Virtual Instruments offers and decipher what is happening," Baltazar said. "Virtual Instruments is in the data path and captures everything. It gets deep diagnostics to locate the problem. But it's expensive. Coraid is missing the virtualization part. It's a key miss and if they had that, it would be a good addition."

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