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Users can now download ParaScale's scale-out cloud storage software and turn Linux servers into a scale-out, loosely-clustered, cloud storage utility.

ParaScale is a start-up, run by Sajai Krishnan, who used to run NetApp's StoreVault business when it was a separate operation within NetApp. The ParaScale Cloud Storage (PCS) software runs on a Linux server functioning as a metadata controller, and on standard Linux servers connected by gigabit Ethernet. The file storage on these servers is turned into a single global name space with access via NFS, WebDav, HTTP or FTP. ParaScale says PCS is an object-based cluster file system. To add more capacity you add another Linux server which also adds more I/O bandwidth to the overall cluster as the nodes operate in parallel.

PCS is a loosely-coupled cluster, in the sense that there is no global cache across the cluster and no-high-speed interconnect such as InfiniBand or 10GbitE. ParaScale is pitching it for tier 2 (non-transactional) storage, providing good access to many, many files stored on hundreds of nodes in parallel. The software can migrate files across cluster nodes for load-balancing purposes, which can solve the problem of limited bandwidth to individual nodes throttling performance.

Several customers have been beta-testing the software, for both private and public cloud applications, such as Blue Coat Systems, the Stanford Genome Technology Centre and Sony Pictures ImageWorks.

The latter is testing PCS to see how a private storage cloud might be better value for money than other ways of storing and accessing its massive amounts of content. Nick Bali, a senior systems engineer, said: "Having evaluated many storage technologies over the years, we are optimistic about finding a potential solution that scales in capacity and performance and targets our content heavy workloads, all the while leveraging standard Linux hardware."

ParaScale believes that Linux servers with direct-attached storage and PCS loosely-coupled cluster software represent a better and cheaper way of providing storage access over a network than either a storage area network (SAN) or a clustered NAS set up. There is a similarity here to the DreamWorks HP-plus-IBRIX approach to the rendering of its animated Monsters vs. Aliens movie. The common factors include x86 industry-standard servers and a global namespace, loosely-clustered, NAS design.

We might ask what the difference is between cloud storage, based on a loosely-coupled cluster accessed by NAS protocols, and a loosely-coupled NAS cluster. The answer, surely, from the access point of view, is none. We can go further. What is the difference between NAS-access cloud storage and NAS?

Both are accessed by server clients using the NAS protocol over an Internet link, so what is the difference as far as the accessing servers are concerned? There is none, the network being the computer, as it always has been for NAS. Cloud Storage refers more to the backend infrastructure's ability to scale both capacity and performance, and a user charging mechanism, than any change in the way servers actually access files across a network link.

Sajai Krishnan said: "Beyond all the marketing around cloud computing and storage, ParaScale's ... approach to data storage is transformational and will help IT managers address ballooning file storage costs as well as capacity growth. ... Cloud computing is driving the next generational shift in IT and as we move forward cloud storage will be a major way that storage is consumed."

PCS version 1.2 is available for immediate purchase and can be downloaded here. Pricing is based on the physical capacity within the cloud, with deployments starting in North America at a list price of $1.05/GB. It will soon be available through resellers. ®

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