Of Parascale & Other Cloud Computing News

Parascale, a Cupertino, Calif-based start-up that has developed a storage file system for a cloud of computers announced that it had attracted $11.37 million in Series A funding from Charles River Ventures and Menlo Ventures. The company recently changed its chief executive and brought in Sajai Krishnan, a former NetApp executive to run the company.

I spoke to Sajai briefly this morning, though I have not had a chance to dig deeply into the company’s technology just yet. The company is going to officially release its software, currently in trials in Fall 2008. It is targeting the streaming media/video industry and others who want to get storage for less than 50 cents a gigabyte. Others like ISPs can use it to set up their own grids and offer competitors to AWS.

What essentially they have developed is software that gets commodity storage drives attached to plain vanilla low cost servers to behave like a giant cloud of storage space, which can be used (and managed) using protocols such as HTTP, FTP and NFS. The company describes its approach as virtual storage grid.

The general idea is not novel, though the company’s commercial rivals (such as Isilon & polyServe (part of HP)) can handles limited number of nodes, an industry euphemism for storage-attached servers. Parascale claims it can handle hundreds of nodes making it easier for the company to handle terabytes of data.

How it works is that a control server – lets call it the brain of the storage cloud – communicates over Gigabit Ethernet connections with storage nodes and makes them all behave like one giant storage cloud. Similar systems from more traditional storage companies would use custom high-speed connection technology like Fiber Channel.
Storage nodes are x86-based Linux servers that support cheap SATA drives. The brain essentially stores the metadata of the files on storage nodes and at all times knows where data has been placed, file versions, and other such information. A software management console helps manage the flow of data in-and-out of the system.

This approach to build high volume storage systems has received a lot of attention, thanks to the success of Google File System and of late, the open source Hadoop platform, championed by Yahoo and Apache Foundation. Our sister blog, OStatic had noted that Hadoop was putting companies like EMC at risk.

Add newcomers likes Parascale to that list, for we have seen many a few open source projects upend proprietary efforts. I am quite bullish on the prospects of open source cloud projects. Still, the company has garnered some positive reviews from early users of its trial software.

In Other Cloud Computing News:

  • The Much talked about start-up, SmugMug launched an online back-up service, SmugVault, based on Amazon Web Services’ platform. It costs 22 cents per gigabyte per month, but to upload it will cost 30 cents per gigabyte, while downloads cost 51 cents a gigabyte. Thomas Hawk points out that at those prices, a two terabyte archive would cost $440 a month, not to mention a $600 one time fee and extra to get the stuff off the drive. Now that’s expensive. I am sticking to Bingo from Joyent.
  • ADC, a telecom equipment maker has teamed up with APC, a power management company to develop fiber optic switches and storage area network devices for the data centers. They want to tap into the recent trend to use fiber in the data centers. ADC recently showed off a ton of new gear for the data center market.