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OpenIO joins object storage cloud scrum

European startup OpenIO looks to take on a slew of mature object storage vendors with its storage aimed at messaging, video and hyperscale data centers.

OpenIO, a storage vendor with "conscience," is trying to make a mark in the crowded object storage market.

France-based OpenIO -- the startup also has a San Francisco office -- launched in 2015, although the development team and the software go back to 2006. The application was first developed inside European transactional service company Atos Worldline for French telecom company Orange. The product was put into open source in 2012, and the team forked the project last year when it launched the company.

CEO Laurent Denel said the company has less than 10 customers, but more than 50 million end users because of telco deployments. He said OpenIO has more than 10 PB of data under management.

Now that it's going full-blown into object storage, OpenIO faces a crowded market. The list of established object vendors includes IBM/Cleversafe, Scality, EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, NetApp, Caringo, Cloudian, HGST, DataDirect Networks, Red Hat, SwiftStack, Exablox and Huawei. They are all battling to gain a foothold as object storage transforms from a niche technology to a key cloud building block. OpenIO's main challenge is to convince customers that another object option is necessary.

One of OpenIO's distinguishing features is it was designed for small files and messaging.  Only Scality -- another France-based company -- with its Ring object storage has a strong email focus among competitors on the market. OpenIO has broadened its use cases to cloud archiving and video and voice recordings. Its conscience technology enables data placement based on application requirements to facilitate petabyte scale.

OpenIO is sold as software only and integrates capacity from x86 hardware into a grid. Denel said he is exploring OEM and distribution deals with server and networking vendors, cloud providers and systems integrators. He said he sees OpenIO as a good fit for providers building storage-as-a-service cloud offerings, as well as media content delivery and long-term archiving.

Greg Schulz, founder of IT advisory firm StorageIO in Stillwater, Minn., said OpenIO's genesis in messaging could give it an advantage in one use case, while allowing it to expand into others.

"One thing that's different about OpenIO is it started out supporting email and messaging at scale, and you don't normally associate email and messaging with object storage," Schulz said. "OpenIO is also set up to have different personalities. You can optimize it for sequential data, random data or whatever. It supports application-aware objects. It can support bulk files, scale-out storage, email ... how do you want it defined?"

The software, also called OpenIO, has a single global namespace and distributed grid shared-nothing architecture. OpenIO has mail, enterprise and video storage editions. The enterprise storage edition builds file services on top of its OpenSource Core engine. It includes a REST API that supports Amazon Simple Storage Service and OpenStack Swift to access metadata and uses Reed-Solomon erasure coding for data protection.

Data placement is where OpenIO's conscience comes in. OpenIO lists conscience as one of the software's characteristics, and Laurent said conscience refers to self-awareness. It's more like application-awareness, and describes how OpenIO rebalances loads for data placement according to the application and performance requirements. The software collects metrics of each node and looks at the available CPU, RAM and I/O for that node, along with the application's performance requirements, to determine where to write objects. OpenIO automatically discovers new nodes added to the grid, and there is no rebalancing of data required, Denel said.

"We don't use deterministic algorithms or a ring to store data," he said. "We don't touch the architecture of the file system. When a node has to store data, we understand the best spot to put the new data."

Each OpenIO edition costs $30,000 per year, plus support. Standard support costs 8 cents per gigabyte, premium support is $60,000 per year, and a platinum edition with premium support and all three editions costs $150,000 per year.

OpenIO adviser Philippe Nicolas said the software can run on any type of media -- solid-state drives, hard disk drives or tape. He said it combines storage and compute in a grid to help customers build Google-type hyperscale systems.

"Many CIOs dream about Google-type data centers, but it's impossible to buy and deploy that on premises," he said. "If they want that same type of scalable storage internally, they come to us. But we don't provide just the storage. We consider this a data platform to handle storage and compute."

That would put it in the hyper-converged rack market with the likes of EMC's VxRack and the Hitachi Hyper Scale-Out Platform. OpenIO's ability to compete with them could depend on its finding the right partnerships to help bring the software to market.

"We want to stay a pure software play and try to invite hardware partners to embed our applications," Denel said. "It could also be a networking vendor, like Cisco, or companies who make video platforms or long-term archiving players."

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