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File bound? Solutions are emerging

By Alan Earls

Some organizations have a special storage problem: very large files. A common profile for this kind of problem is that of an advertising agency or movie studio -- though media companies are not the only ones.

"Moving real time video is a challenge across the board. There are some companies who are coming out with specialized parallel processing I/O devices to try to handle it. It's not so hard locally, but it becomes a huge problem when you try to use the Internet," says Steve Duplessie, analyst with Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Storage Group.

Charles Kronauer, marketing manager for ApplianceWare, Inc. -- a company that produces management, communications and service delivery software for the server appliance and ASP/SSP markets -- says that providing a free-standing, storage appliance is one way to deal with the issue. "It is what we would term a creative services appliance -- something which would include backup software and have security so that you could put up high value data and still make it available to team members remotely," he says.

Such a system, says Kronauer, could be built around what ApplianceWare and American Megatrends (AMI) recently announced: the joint creation of a server appliance solution which combines AMI's Indium (series 803) small form-factor server appliance motherboard and ApplianceWare's server appliance software and management framework.

Kronauer notes that the combination of the two companies' products yields something that can be as small as a CD-ROM drive but is scalable for rack-mounted or vertical towers with up to 30 individual drives.

In addition to appliance-based solutions, Duplessie says that other players (such as, Arsenal Digital -- an SSP based in North Carolina) are working on special compression techniques to move large file data formats over the net very efficiently. Geoff Sinn, Arsenal Digital president and COO, says that Arsenal targets the needs of companies with single files in the multi-gigabyte range, or large numbers of 50-500 megabyte files.

Sinn says the integrated product -- based on "best available" encryption, security, and compression technologies -- will probably be available in Q1 of 2001. "We will have an open API to help integrate the industry's best into our application and vice versa."

"The use of compression tools can both maximize the stored capacities on the SAN and improve delivery performance," agrees William Hurley, an analyst with Boston-based Yankee Group. And, he adds, "embracing both block- and file-based [storage] is the most appropriate architecture for rich media."

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About the author: Alan Earls is a freelance writer in Franklin, Mass.

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