SageCloud changed its company name to Storiant this week in preparation for the general release of its first product: object storage software that targets financial and security firms and service providers in need of low-cost, on-site cold data storage.
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When the Boston-based startup incorporated in April 2012, it identified object storage and commodity hardware-based infrastructure as the future for unstructured data. But the company's management didn't know if it would sell services, hardware and software -- or only software -- according to Jeff Flowers, the company's CEO and co-founder.
Flowers said the name change came because the company decided to sell software rather than cloud services, and there's another vendor called Sage Software, which could have caused confusion.
The startup's software is also called Storiant.
"We loved the name Storiant a lot better than we liked SageCloud, so it became obvious to us that it was time to rename the company to focus on both this new area and the software sales that we were devoting ourselves to," said Flowers, who also founded online backup vendor Carbonite.
Storiant developed proprietary object storage software and integrated open source technologies, such as the highly scalable OpenZFS file system, the scale-out Cassandra NoSQL database for object metadata, and the object-oriented OpenStack Swift application programming interface.
"ZFS is designed for high reliability on commodity hardware," Flowers said. "And Cassandra allows us to keep up with where all the objects are stored within the hardware and all the systems we have connected together. Besides being very scalable, Cassandra allows us to add a lot of functionality."
One area in which Storiant differentiates itself from other object storage vendors is its exclusive focus on cold data storage, such as financial and medical records that companies need to retain for long periods of time. Storiant even builds in industry-specific functionality to help customers meet immutability requirements.
Storiant publishes a reference architecture and a bill of materials listing the hardware that's tested and certified to work with the software. The product currently supports servers from Dell and Supermicro, and certification is pending on Hewlett-Packard. Storiant supports consumer-grade desktop SATA hard disk drives from the three major manufacturers: Seagate, Toshiba and Western Digital.
"That allows customers to buy whatever drives they want and get the best price," Flowers said. "The drives in our typical systems represent about 85% of the hardware cost."
With the advent of 5 TB and 6 TB drives, Storiant will be able to store 2.5 PB in a single 19-inch rack of storage, according to Flowers.
On its website, Storiant advertises a monthly cost of one cent per GB, rivaling the prices of the major public cloud storage providers that use similar object storage technologies for cold data storage. Flowers likened Storiant's offering to Amazon's Glacier public cloud storage, except in Storiant's case, the end user can buy the software and use it on-premises.
"We have the experience of 10 years of building gigantic low-cost storage systems at Carbonite, and we are taking that experience and enabling a lot of companies to share in that," Flowers said. Including Flowers, five of Storiant's 30 employees worked on the server technical team at Carbonite.
Also in the works is a Hadoop interface and a product release compliant with Open Compute Project specifications, according to Flowers.
Raymond Paquet, managing vice president at Gartner Inc., said the jury is still out on whether public or private cloud storage is cheaper. But he said Gartner maintains internal storage can be cheaper than external storage -- if done well.
Paquet said he expects the product could compete against the offerings of public cloud providers, as well as object storage vendors, such as Cleversafe. However, Storiant doesn't focus exclusively on cold data.
Storiant's use of massive array of idle disks (MAID) technology introduces a potential level of latency to spin up disks that makes the product inappropriate for primary data, Paquet said.
But the use of MAID, coupled with open source technologies -- such as OpenZFS and Cassandra -- and support for the cheapest possible disks, can drive down the cost per GB. That makes Storiant an interesting option for enterprises trying to cope with the massive growth of unstructured, largely untouched data, Paquet said.
"Too much unstructured data is stored on expensive storage when it should be stored on the least expensive storage we can get our hands on," Paquet said. "This is one approach that has the potential to solve this problem."
Storiant's software has been in beta testing since November with potential customers Carbonite, the Boston-based Markley Group, Oktay Technology and two large financial services firms, one in Boston and one in New York, according to Flowers.
Storiant declined to disclose pricing for its software.