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Infinite io storage controller accelerates NAS filers

Startup infinite io launched a network-based storage controller that boosts performance on NAS filers and also moves inactive data to the cloud.

Startup infinite io, based in Austin, Texas, this week launched a network-based storage controller designed to boost performance of a NAS filer while also migrating inactive data to low-cost cloud storage.

The company's new NSC-11O device sits on the network in front of a NAS filer and moves inactive data from primary storage to the cloud via predefined policies. The system uses flash memory and NDRAM to boost performance of local storage while moving data to the cloud without requiring a change in file paths.

"We look like local storage [but] we don't appear anywhere on the network," said Mark Cree, infinite io's CEO and president. "If you have a 20-year-old application that speaks NFS or CIFS, you can drop us in and move data to the cloud. There are no changes required in the user experience or the infrastructure. We just sit on the network and do a deep-packet inspection of the reads and writes."

Infinite io's NSC-110 system is in beta testing, and Cree expects it to be generally available in the second half of the year.

The concept of the NSC-110 is not new. Products such as Avere Systems FXT Filers accelerate NAS performance and move data to the cloud. Other vendors such as Nasuni and Panzura started off selling NAS gateways to the cloud. The difference for the infinite io storage controller is the process it employs.

Scott Sinclair, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, said the startup sets itself apart from the traditional storage vendors because it is using network technology to address some key challenges with data migration.

"It's like an invisible storage controller that can manage data but it does not impact anything," Sinclair said. "They are just a bump on the wire because, from the application's standpoint, it is still talking to the original array. The ability to plug the system in without the initial pain-point is very compelling."

Arun Taneja, president and consulting analyst with Taneja Group, said infinite io is trying to address at least two major problems. One is a decrease in performance of traditional NAS filers as they scale, and the other is migrating data to the cloud.

Taneja said the biggest problem with NAS filers from NetApp and other vendors is that the systems experience performance degradation when 60% of the storage capacity is used so customers have to buy a new system to maintain application performance.

"It's the ugly truth of NAS," said Taneja. "The closet thing I see in the market to infinte io's product is Avere's [FXT filers]. They are put on the network and the applications are not talking to NetApp boxes, so that gives two more years to the NetApp devices and customers don't need to buy more storage from NetApp. They are talking to Avere and the mount point needs to be changed. Infinite io is non-intrusive."

Taneja said a large percentage of reads that applications make to file servers are not data requests but actually metadata requests. Infinite io uses a flash cache to handle the metadata requests and starts to act like a NAS system while boosting application performance.

"[Infinite io] can do it efficiently because metadata requests are short," Taneja said. "The requests are short and can be served from flash and DRAM and that is incredibly fast. I believe 200 million pieces of metadata can be accommodated in DRAM and the rest goes into flash cache that can handle about one million pieces of data."

Taneja said the infinite io storage controller can also act as a migration tool for moving data into the cloud after it is no longer active. That frees capacity on the NAS device.

"Customers set a policy such as data that is not active during two weeks should be moved to the cloud," he said. "So, infinite io looks at the metadata and sees what files are not touched and moves them off the NetApp box. Customers then don't have to buy another NetApp for maybe another two years," he said.

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