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BridgeSTOR dedupes primary storage for small biz

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Startup BridgeSTOR is going to offer compressed and deduplicated primary storage so that small and medium businesses (SMBs) can hold a lot more data for a lot fewer dollars.

The company is using hardware dedupe and compression along with flash caching and small form factor drives to deliver fast performance and application-awareness, as well as capacity optimisation.

A husband-and-wife team is funding the startup. The pair already have a background in storage. John Matze's CV includes a stint as software director at Veritas from 1998 to 2001 and he was also one of the architects of the IETF iSCSI standard.

Matze founded and funded Okapi Software to develop affordable iSCSI storage. It was then bought by Overland Storage, where Matze was chief technology officer (CTO) from 2003 to 2005, and where his team bought the REO Virtual tape library product to life. After leaving Overland, he founded Siafu Software, to develop low-cost encrypted and unified storage – iSCSI and NAS – which was then bought by Hifn in April 2009. Hifn makes hardware compression and deduplication products. He then became VP for storage system products at Exar and is now ready to reveal BridgeSTOR, which uses Exar technology.

His startups were all self-funded too. Other notable themes in his career have been a continuing focus on iSCSI and low cost. The overall pattern is one of developing storage mousetraps for the SMB market, generally repeatedly lowering the $/GB cost with each iteration.

BridgeSTOR has two main focuses: capacity-optimisation first and then the cloud. Matze says these are the two frontiers in storage right now. "Deduplication is still too expensive for SMBs," he said. "There is an opportunity for an appliance which reduces the number of storage racks. In the future you will have some form of data reduction in everything you buy."

BridgeSTOR is developing Application-Optimised Storage (AOS) appliances with product tailored for VMware, Backup Exec and NAS (Network-attached Storage). The storage will also be application-aware. These appliances are built on a 2U HP quad-core Xeon server base with 10GbitE network connectivity. Matze chose HP because it provides reliable support whereas a cheaper starting box would not have HP-class support.

Exar ASIC hardware provides deduplication with block-level hashing, compression and encryption, which applies to data at rest on the device and will apply to data sent to the cloud. The deduplication is inline and applies to all data, both primary and secondary.

The system also features thin provisioning with storage volumes only needing enough storage for the written data and not the full nominal allocation up front. Data is stored on 25 2.5-inch hard drives and the system has two 40GB Intel solid state drives for caching. Matze said: "The SSDs are used to hold internal data about the deduped/compressed LUN.  They are mirrored for protection and not available for the user to utilise."

The VMware focused product uses 6Gbit/s SAS drives, while the backup and network access versions use 3Gbit/s SATA drives.

Matze says the AOS products should be of interest to SMB, departments and workgroups in larger enterprises and the public sector.

The VMware virtualisation appliance has 10TB of raw storage which, with a 3:1 compression and dedupe ratio, becomes a 30TB appliance. As an iSCSI target it has thin provisioning as well. The backup system relies on Backup Exec's dedupe and switches off its own while continuing to run the compression engine. Matze says this potentially means 200-300TB effective capacity levels and it is: "a refresh of what I did with REO."

The network storage appliance, offering NAS and iSCSI access, offers around 30TB again, with a 3:1 dedupe/compression ratio applied to its raw 10TB capacity.

These AOS products will compete with other SMB-focused storage products such as ones from Dell and the SnapServer and SnapSAN products from Overland Storage. When they are released in cloud gateway form they will also compete with Riverbed's Whitewater appliance and possibly others from Aspera and Cirtas.

We might expect additional BridgeSTOR products focused on Microsoft applications such as Exchange and SharePoint. Bob Farkaly of Exar said: "Our definition of application is purposely broad to give customers the configuration flexibility they want. Our applications such as VMware, Microsoft Applications and Network Storage are broad enough to give buyers the balance of capacity and performance they need and want. We anticipate some further tightening of the definition if needed for selected applications. For instance, an Exchange storage product may be optimised for email data storage, but our product characterisation has not yet extended that far."

Matze said: "Early next year we will have an optional second chassis that will connect via SAS and give the customer an additional 20 or 30TB of storage depending on the model."

BridgeSTOR will formally announce itself on 16 November. Its website will go live on the same day. Products will be available on 29 November and only through the channel, with a distributor/VAR channel scheme. The backup product will be priced around $20,000. Matze said a 30TB Data Domain dedupe box will be priced at $50,000 or so in the US while an Exagrid equivalent is "up there in the $30,000 area. Thin provisioning enables us to get the pricing down," said the CEO. ®

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