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Storiant adds NFS protocol support for NAS private cloud storage

Startup Storiant aims to serve the growing market for long-term cloud storage for unstructured data in regulated industries at a lower cost than public cloud storage.

Object storage software startup Storiant today unveiled the StoriantLink interface to support Linux-based private cloud storage of applications that use NAS protocols.

StoriantLink is being rolled out initially as an add-on to paying and beta customers of its object storage software, also called Storiant, that launched in May for private clouds. The vendor plans to sell future releases of StoriantLink with a separate license.

The Storiant object software provides long-term cloud storage for unstructured data and is aimed primarily at financial services and security firms as well as service providers that use NAS. The StoriantLink software gateway translates application data from Network File System (NFS) and Common Internet File System protocols.

Storiant CEO Jeff Flowers said his company offers private cloud storage at a cost that rivals that of large public cloud providers, particularly Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) and Amazon Glacier

"When we launched two and a half years ago, RESTful interfaces with [Amazon] S3 and Swift were all the rage. We talked to the dozen enterprise customers that were advising us and they said, 'People have hundreds, if not thousands, of legacy apps that just can't change very quickly.' The majority use NFS and a few even use Windows. It became clear that we needed to create a gateway that would compatibly let them use their existing programs on a mount point and still take advantage of Storiant cloud storage," Flowers said.

The StoriantLink API supports NAS protocols available with the standard Ubuntu operating system. Ubuntu writes information to disk and Storiant's API issues commands to transfer locally written storage back and forth to the Storiant private cloud.

StoriantLink consists of Storiant's object storage software certified on servers from Dell, HP and Supermicro Computer Inc. Storiant supports desktop-grade SATA hard disk drives from Seagate, Toshiba and Western Digital. CommVault, Symantec NetBackup, Oracle, NICE Systems and Riverbed Technology are among backup software vendors to certify Storiant's object platform.

Going head to head with Amazon's public cloud storage

Storiant's proprietary object storage platform integrates open source technologies such as OpenZFS file system, the Cassandra NoSQL database for object metadata, and OpenStack Swift's object-oriented API. The company's core market includes companies in highly regulated industries that need to keep object data out of public cloud environments. Storiant software is designed to enable enterprises to meet requirements for data immutability. 

Flowers said Storiant offers private cloud-based object storage for about 1 cent per gigabyte per month, or about one-third the cost of Amazon's S3. Its pilot system includes 1 PB of storage copied in two locations for $150,000. The price drops to $75,000 per PB for the utmost tier of 20 PB of storage. Flowers said Storiant offers cloud-based object storage that can scale to the exabyte range.

StoriantLink also supports APIs for Hadoop MapReduce and client libraries for Java, Python and Microsoft .NET.

Adding a software gateway is pivotal to Storiant's ability to compete with hyper-scale cloud providers, said Dave Simpson, a senior storage analyst with 451 Research.

"The gateway gives them a way to get customer data into their object store. It's also important because it enables customers to use their existing apps without modification, most notably backup and recovery apps," Simpson said.

Storiant's software includes other twists aimed at lowering cloud-based object storage costs, Simpson said, including a power-down function that potentially uses 80% less power and helps prolong the life of consumer hard drives and analytic tools to help predict drive failure.

"They won't succeed if their pricing is not close to or better than Amazon. They also have to be as close to, or less expensive, than tape or else people won't consider switching over from tape," Simpson said.

Storiant: 'Beta testers lining up to buy'

Markley Cloud Services is one of Storiant's largest beta testers and its first commercial customer. Markley is not running StoriantLink in production, but CTO Patrick Gilmore said his company has customers lined up to take delivery of petabyte-scale storage in the first quarter of 2015.

"We think the NFS gateway will be a big, big deal with our customers. Internally, we are seriously considering using it to replace a tier of spinning disk. Our testing is not complete, but so far, we've been pretty happy with how well it performs," Gilmore said.

The only other publicly disclosed commercial customer of Storiant is online backup vendor Carbonite, which Flowers also founded. Three other Storiant customers are completing proofs of concept and expected to execute purchase agreements during the next quarter.

"These are big, recognizable names in the financial services and security industry," Flowers said.

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Does Storiant's NFS support make private cloud NAS appealing for cold data?
Of course it does. Storiant's premise is pretty simple, in that it translates between NFS and object-based storage, which lets our company store unstructured data in a cloud storage system, but not have to write APIs for the hundreds of apps in our software catalog. Personally, I want to see more details of the service, and I haven't heard much about SLAs, but I'd definitely be interested in being part of the beta program.