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Coraid peers over shoulder, pushes out another ZFS-based NAS head

Two years later, tries its luck with Oracle-based system

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Ethernet SAN storage supplier Coraid has announced its filer head, an Oracle ZFS-based product, two years after NetApp smacked it down for attempting the same thing with a Nexenta ZFS-based product. It has also beat off some pretty big competition to score Sony as a marquee user of its EtherDrive storage product.

The ZX-Series is NAS head hardware with software based on Oracle Solaris ZFS, not Nexenta's ZFS offering – as NetApp, then in dispute with Oracle, threatened to sue Nexenta and other ZFS storage software users over IP rights. At the time, Coraid decided to play safe and go with Oracle ZFS for its own product after NetApp threatened the storage minnow with legal action over its EtherDrive Z-series NAS.

EtherDrive SR and SRX drive arrays are accessed as block storage by server applications, with the Ethernet AoE (ATA over Ethernet) protocol being used instead of Fibre Channel or iSCSI. Coraid reckons it offers the simplest, lowest-overhead SAN storage in the industry. Kevin Browne, its CEO, says business has increased tenfold in two and a half years as his new exec team try to turn Coraid's promise into revenues.

This hasn't prevented some of its European distributors setting up a Nexenta ZFS-based NAS head called EraStore for EtherDRive arrays.

The server hardware has the specialised read and write flash caches that ZFS needs and takes 10 gig Ethernet to the back-end SRX arrays. Two heads can be clustered in an active-active arrangement. The target markets are big data, the cloud, and the video side of the media industry. Coraid has put the ZX-Series product together based on what it has learned from customers putting ZFS heads in front of its EtherDrive arrays.

That gets customers the known ZFS features of thin provisioning, deduplication, hybrid flash-disk storage pools, growth to petabye capacities of needed data and data protection through snapshots, clones and replication.

Coraid also recently announced Sony as a customer – and Brown said that it was a "take-away from from a three-letter storage vendor". If we take that literally it means EMC or IBM. We have also found an Isilon customer case study about Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Sony Music Australia is using Coraid ZFS amd EtherDrive storage for its Bandit.fm music cloud with five million stored music tracks, and aims to double that number. There are two sites, one used to protect data and operations by acting as a high-availability alternative to the primary site. The overall Coraid installation provides scale-out storage at some fraction of the cost of the rejected vendor.

There are more than 1,500 Coraid customers in nearly 50 countries and the firm said it is experiencing 200-300 per cent annual growth. Coraid's senior director EMEA, Peter Godden, said: "The number of end users in EMEA is around 300, about 35 per cent of which are UK; we have 10 permanent staff in the UK and are expanding with a further two job offers out at the moment. We have plans for expansion across EMEA but are concentrating on low-hanging fruit which can be found in the media production and oil and gas sectors, for example, where large quantities of data are stored."

Coraid's Ethernet storage, with parallel Ethernet ports to the SRX arrays, performs very well, can link to servers with greased lightning Arista switches, and makes use of flash drives if customers wish to do so. It can be used behind Caringo object storage heads, works with IBM's GPFS and Windows Storage Server, and now gets to play in the unified file/block storage space courtesy of Oracle ZFS.

CEO Kevin Brown's exec team is broadening and deepening Coraid's storage product line and customers seem to like what it's doing. Knocking out Isilon at Sony Music Australia is a coup, and Coraid is developing a market presence that reduces its brand risk and seems set to turn it into a Fibre Channel-class SAN performer with less complexity than Fibre Channel, FCoE or iSCSI – and a lower price.

Coraid ZX-Series NAS heads are available now with prices starting from $800/TB. ®

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