Commodity Infrastructure for Software Defined Storage - Coraid’s Scale Out Block
As a storage professional we can get overwhelmed trying to keep up with every new "alternative" architecture professing to replace our tried-and-true storage solutions. But there seems to be no way to avoid constantly searching for new solutions to deal with data growth, demand for more and differentiating storage services and constrained budgets. Wouldn't it be great if there was a solid storage building block of infrastructure we could acquire like a commodity across all our projects rather than hunt down specific storage for each new application and use case? We could plug them in like Legos when we needed to transform or expand, and use software to configure them for block, file, and even object storage services.
Coraid may have just cracked open commodity storage as a viable organizational approach. While many other vendors are sailing down the flash appliance route looking for differentiation, Coraid has evolved an interesting proposition. Their scale-out block storage (which can have flash in it) runs over regular Ethernet at layer 2, diving below where iSCSI is layered to achieve higher, more reliable performance. According to Coraid, their latest distributed storage O/S enables massive scaling out by simply plugging in more boxes to the network, and now delivers (note at the software level) enterprise storage features like replication and snapshots.
It's basically scale-out, commodity block storage, but they also offer ZFS and other file server solutions on top. I'm guessing an object solution like SWIFT could leverage this nicely too. Coraid also has acquired and folded in one-click cloud storage provisioning to flesh out an agile, flexible storage services approach.
There would be some adoption friction with the perceived risk presented by a "new" way, and/or becoming dependent on a single vendor (kind of anathema to the idea of commodification). You'll need the Coraid HBAs (other than for Linux kernels) and I don't know of many 3rd party network performance management solutions that will readily diagnose layer 2 storage protocols. But this may just be a matter of time.
The commodity storage approach is falling into place. We could believe that with a pluggable storage inventory, large scale out potential, high performance, and low storage and networking costs combined with software configurations for enterprise features and even the type of storage services, that some organizations could profitably adopt a commodity storage approach across their whole enterprise. Having only one low-level, low-cost storage infrastructure would bring tremendous IT efficiencies. Certainly those that think of themselves as service providers, external or internal, should take a look.
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