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Grid storage - crafted for SMBs

Diddly griddly box slices as it stripes

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Small and medium businesses generally want reliable, cheap and simple to use storage; not pushing-the-envelope stuff like grid storage. Gridstore hopes to turn that situation around with its $499 1TB filer box which can grow by adding more boxes.

Gridstore's NASg is a 1U 1TB or 2TB box that's powered by an Atom processor running Windows 7, with a 1TB or 2TB SATA drive. The idea is to have accessing clients do the storage processing while the nodes have files striped across them for reliability, parallelised access, and node failure redundancy. (The "g" in NASg stands for grid.)

When a box is added to a server it looks for any local Gridstore and fires itself up. A Microsoft management console in the box shows it as an unallocated volume (Microsoft network drive), and it can be allocated to an existing storage pool to increase its capacity or be used as it is.

An unlimited number of nodes can be added over time, claims Gridstore. The company says: "NASg aggregates the processing power of the clients and servers accessing the storage grid and distributes the storage processing across the clients. This allows advanced redundancy processing (higher than RAID 6) to be performed and then stripe the resulting data across the grid of storage nodes."

Gridstore says files to be rewritten are cut into slices and distributed across NASg nodes. The nodes are effectively partitioned into redundancy groups, the number of which is configurable to the number of failing nodes you want to recover from.

What Gridstore is doing is moving the grid storage controller processing up the access path to client systems, and having each of them do some of the work, enabling it to have cheap and cheerful single disk storage nodes controlled by an Atom processor.

By only having a single disk in a 1U enclosure Gridstore leaps the cost down, but rack take-up will be high as there is no way to combine, say, four 1U NASg nodes into a single 4U NASg unit carrying many more than four disks. As soon as you pass, say, four nodes, the Gridstore system becomes a profligate user of rack space.

It might be better to mount the motherboard plus disk drives as a vertical blade in a 4 or 6U enclosure to get a much better packing density, but then you lose the simply-add-a-node simplicity of the current scheme, and cooling becomes a problem - and you probably lose the $499 start price too.

There are more details of how the technology works on the Gridstore website. If it works as claimed - with end users seeing a standard Windows network folder that is actually virtualised from a mass of NASg nodes (drives) - and it works fast and reliably, then SMBs may well like it.

They'll be replacing potentially lots of filers (NAS sprawl) with lots of NASg nodes (rack enclosure sprawl). It will be interesting to see how it pans out. ®

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