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Scale Eight expands service with global push

With what it claims is a disruptive technology proposition that is set to shake up the way organizations view and manage large video and music files, Scale Eight isn't your average storage service provider. After establishing commercial operations at the start of 2001 in the US, it has just launched services in the UK with the opening of a London data center, and it will extend into continental Europe later this year. It's also close to launching operations in Tokyo, Japan.

San Francisco-based Scale Eight isn't the only vendor trying to crack this market, but CEO Dick Watts said its "global, not local" view of data puts an entirely fresh perspective on how file data is managed. Meanwhile, he added, the likes of Network Appliance and EMC are slogging it out over making "better, faster, cheaper" storage boxes, with no idea of the overall problem they are trying to address. Watts compared the storage vendors to bank vault manufacturers, obsessed with building better vaults. "In this scenario we are the ATM vendors that allow people to get to their money," he said.

Scale Eight's target customers are predominantly media companies looking for new ways to deliver their content to customers while avoiding the twin stumbling blocks of cost and complexity of management. This is especially pertinent for multinationals that have customers spread across the world, because they don't want the cost of building and maintaining their own storage infrastructure, said Watts.

However, Scale Eight believes that the hosting and management of its customers' data is only part of the puzzle. Current storage architectures are inefficient when it comes to handling large data files, such as video or music files, because file systems that manage this data have only a localized view of a company's storage resources. As a result, more files need to be pushed to the network edge in case they are requested for download, resulting in high storage and bandwidth costs, especially for larger files.

Scale Eight's "special sauce," according to Watts, is its 8FS Global File System, which, as the name suggests, can manage all large files within an organization, meaning files only have to be stored once at Scale Eight's data center facilities. The result is the creation of a pull-driven WAN, where larger files are only moved to the network edge when they are requested. Watts said this system is up to five times more cost effective than any other file system on the market, and can also leverage existing investments, as 8FS is fully compatible with other file architectures, such as NFS and CIFS.

This isn't the only area where Scale Eight is saving on cost ? the company doesn't use any of the main subsystem vendors for its storage capacity either. That's way too expensive, said Watts, so instead it uses standard Intel servers connected to commodity disks, located at Exodus data centers in California, Virginia, London and Tokyo, where it has built out a 250-terabyte infrastructure. That works out at around $150,000 for 12 terabytes, which is vastly favorable to vendors such as EMC, which works out at about $1m per terabyte, said Watts. UK prices are ?24 ($33.7) per month per gigabyte.

Scale Eight currently has around 20 customers worldwide, including Microsoft's MSN for music files, and it says around three quarters of its customers are media companies. However, it also recognizes the importance of helping all large companies manage their file-level data more efficiently, especially given the uncertainty over when services such as video on demand will take off. In response, Scale Eight is looking to cement partnerships with integrators such as Accenture, and will also start courting some applications vendors in the product design and content management space. Scale Eight will also seek to increase its visibility with content delivery network vendors. Akamai already resells Scale Eight's service under its own brand.

The company has raised over $31m from two financing rounds, and it expects one further round of capital will take it into breakeven territory, though it isn't saying when this will happen.

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