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Locust Storage unveils Ethernet-powered disk array

Eco-friendly tech aims for global swarming

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Start-up Locust Storage is combining drive spin-down with Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) to provide what it reckons is the greenest storage array yet designed.

The technology combines standard hard disk drives, a solid state drive (SSD) front end, and a Lithium Ion battery reservoir, fed by PoE over a 10GigE wire, to provide storage claimed to be need 80 to 90 per cent less electricity than existing arrays.

The company was founded in April this year by Seth Georgion, its CEO, who has an oil and gas industry background. He was struck by how a seismic survey could involve 60PB of data all held on spinning disk so as to be ready when needed, yet the bulk of the data was accessed infrequently.

Locust Storage is running on angel funding with a first venture capital round under negotiation. Its technology was a joint winner at the GreenBeat 2009 event which focused on the Smart Grid idea of better controlling and delivering electricity in the USA.

The idea of spin down is virtually synonymous with MAID, Massive Array of Idle Disks technology, from troubled Copan Systems. Its most successful exponent is probably Nexan with its AutoMAID technology using several levels of graduated spin-down to shorten the time for full disk power-up.

The big response time problem is that a non-spinning disk needs time to spin up and that obviously slows data access. It would appear that Locust's Smart Power Down array is using SSD technology to reduce the impact of disk power-up time on data access. Software in the product is also said to write data sequentially for fast access. The company says it can deliver high data bandwidth levels as well as very low power consumption.

The PoE technology may well reduce product costs compared to a conventionally-powered array as there is less need for cooling fans and no need for AC/DC power conversion. Locust says that PoE can stream electricity into the battery when the device is quiet and then use the battery to augment PoE electricity when the array is being fully accessed, likening this dual-supply system to a Prius-like hybrid drive.

The product is said to have Internet scalability, and new data redundancy and protection mechanisms.

Georgion says Locusts' product, expected next year, will probably appeal to customers needing secondary storage in the digital media, data retention and tape replacement markets.

The company name suggests images of swarms of locusts which come and go as they gobble up all the vegetation in an area. The swarming probably says something about Internet scale. The mass consumption of vegetation by the swarm for food is most probably not meant to imply anything at all about the developing product's need for power, the opposite in fact, we suppose. Expect to hear more about Locust in the coming months. ®

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