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OnApp packs bullet-proof SAN into v3 of its cloud software

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UK cloud control freak OnApp has released the third version of its OnApp Cloud, which packs in its distributed SAN for telecommunications companies that want to spin-up Amazon-like iterations.

The v3.0 release, which became generally available on Wednesday, incorporates OnApp's ambitious distributed SAN, along with CDN, DNS, load balancing, autoscaling, video streaming and other management features needed to make an infrastructure-as-a-service cloud hum.

"We're helping service providers to compete with Amazon," OnApp's chief commercial officer Kosten Metreweli told El Reg, "the key thing is the OnApp storage product - this is the first version of the product going into production."

The SAN is a distributed block storage system that uses spare disk or drive capacity within hypervisor servers to let service providers form a pool of storage that can then be sliced up into virtual discs and served to hungry cloud buyers.

"It's a new way of looking at cloud-focused SAN's," he said. Rather than buy a piece of dedicated storage gear, this technology lets wannabe-Amazons use their existing hardware to serve storage. This approach is already used by the cloud giants and has traditional IT vendors sweating.

But does it provide enough reliability and redundancy for a customers' data to not go missing during an equipment failure?

It allows for one, two, or four replicas of data to be stored with an option for one, two or four stripes, giving administrators a crude RAID-esque function. Though the system lets administrators maximise storage, the number of hypervisors required rockets up with redundancy — 4 hypervisors and 16 disks with attached storage are required to replicate data four times with four logical stripes.

The system can tier storage across different drives according to their capabilities. For example, frequently accessed data can be told to go onto SSD-backed virtual storage drives, while rarely accessed information ('cold data') can live on low-RPM SATA storage.

OnApp claims its technology is being used 500 service providers — telecommunications companies, web hosts, systems integrators, third-party IT shops — across 40 countries, putting it up against CloudStack, vCloud and OpenStack in terms of overall deployments.

Like the aforementioned techs, OnApp is hypervisor-agnostic, so it will manage Xen, KVM and VMware environments.

The software incorporates OnApp's global CDN which operates from 140 locations around the world, making it a minnow to the whale of Akamai (127,000 servers across 81 countries and 1,150 networks).

However, this does cut the cost of providing basic CDN services for buyers.

When The Reg last spoke with OnApp in April it said it had 66 CDN locations and was pursuing around 100 prospects, so quite a few companies have taken a punt on the tech in the last year.

OnApp's proposition is the same as other 'Amazon-killers' ranging from OpenStack to Citrix to VMware: if you're a service provider this system gives you a tool set to spin up your own cloud and try and preserve existing customers and perhaps go after new ones.

Where it gets difficult is knowing what benefit a paid-for (pricing was not disclosed) piece of software gains you when compared with the benefits of being part of the open source community-developed OpenStack, or using the pricey but reliable vCloud.

If any of you have experimented with the OnApp technology then let us know, we'd love to hear your experiences. ®

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