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Cloud storage controller market: One-stop guide

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TwinStrata expands cloud storage gateway hardware, software

TwinStrata expands its hybrid cloud storage gateways with a solid state drive (SSD) performance model and high availability model, and upgrades software with data volume expansion.

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Cloud storage controller market: One-stop guide

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TwinStrata upgraded its CloudArray iSCSI cloud storage gateway today, adding a high- availability appliance plus one that supports solid state drives (SSDs) while upgrading the software with enhanced data management and security features.

Like products from Nasuni, StorSimple, and Panzura, the TwinStrata appliances let customers store data locally and send it off to service providers in a hybrid cloud storage setup. TwinStrata supports public storage cloud providers AT&T Synaptic Storage as a Service, Amazon S3, and EMC Atmos. CloudArray also supports private storage cloud platforms from Mezeo Software and Scality.

With its support of block storage through native iSCSI, and  an offering of hardware and software virtual appliance implementations, TwinStrata is unlike its competitors. Nasuni is the other vendor that sells its product as a virtual appliance, but it does not sell hardware appliances and is NAS based for file storage. TwinStrata’s lone block storage gateway competitor, Cirtas, pulled its products from the market two weeks ago.

TwinStrata’s new models are the 2S with 2 TB of SSD for cache and 10-Gibabit Ethernet (GbE) connectivity and Model 3, which is a dual node redundant appliance with 24 TB local storage and two 10-GigE ports. The vendor bills the 2S as its high performance system and the Model 3 as its high availability appliance.

TwinStrata came out of stealth with a virtual appliance in May 2010, then last September added its first two CloudArray appliances with the software pre-loaded. Those models supported 8 TB and 16 TB of raw local storage. The larger model had an optional 10-GbE port.

CloudArray 2.5 software lets customers dynamically grow thin provisioned volumes to 384 TB. The new version also includes bandwidth throttling and scheduling, enhanced compression, and the ability to automatically backup metadata to a CloudArray portal where it can be retrieved in the event of a disaster.

TwinStrata CEO Nicos Vekiarides said CloudArray products are used so far mainly for secondary data – backups, disaster recovery (DR) and infrequently accessed data – although they are built to handle primary data.

“We see most adoption in the secondary tier,” he said. “We let people do offsite backups and replace tapes. We can give local and offsite secure copies in the cloud at a better cost than extending disk off-site.”

Vekiarides said TwinStrata has more than 50 paying customers. He said about 40% of its customers have bought physical appliances since the vendor added them late last year. He said customers who only want to back up are more likely to go with software.

“Customers enabling tiers of storage for archive or tier two primary storage tend to use the appliance,” he said. “But all customers start off with a virtual appliance. That makes it easy and almost riskless to get started. They can do a proof of concept first.”

The 2S model costs $34,995 and Model 3 costs $79,995. A CloudArray software appliance costs $4,995 for up to 20 TB and $8,995 for unlimited capacity. TwinStrata also offers subscription pricing for the software appliance. The prices do not include fees charged by the cloud storage providers.

Cloud storage gateway prospects mixed

IT consultant Tom Coughlin of Coughlin Associates said the cloud gateway approach can be an effective way to handle DR for smaller companies.

“It depends on how well you can do snapshots and how it works through the gateway,” he said. “It seems to make sense versus buying more storage yourself.”

Coughlin also said TwinStrata’s offering of hardware and software-only appliances can widen its appeal.

“Some guys like to roll their own and want more control and with software they can tune things up to make it work the way they want it to,” Coughlin said. “Others just want something that they can turn on, and it works without tweaking.”

Still, TwinStrata’s release comes at a time when dark clouds hang over cloud computing and cloud storage in the wake of Amazon’s EC2 outage, Iron Mountain ending its cloud file storage service, and Cirtas pulling its product over the last few weeks.

After Cirtas laid off most of its staff and said it would re-evaluate its strategy, people in the industry claimed it was difficult to make a go as a SAN cloud vendor because organizations are wary of turning over primary block data to startups and cloud providers.

Vekiarides pointed out that TwinStrata has some key differences from Cirtas. Cirtas only shipped as an appliance, and “We have high availability, and a software version,” he said. “The cloud is a concept that will help you reduce capital expense and infrastructure, and that’s why software is appealing. Customers don’t want to jump into the cloud and have to buy hardware all the time to expand.

“Somewhere Cirtas’ execution failed. Perhaps [its product] didn’t work.”

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