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January 30, 2012

Coraid plans further storage market disruption

Firm claims its Ethernet storage blows away rivals

By Vinod

Coraid, which already claims to offer Ethernet-attached storage that offers a 5-8x price-performance advantage over legacy storage, is readying complete thin provisioning capability for an imminent launch, CBR has learned.

Thin provisioning is the act of using virtualisation technology to give the appearance of more physical resource than is actually available – it helps to improve utilization rates and hence save on the total amount of storage required and bring down costs even further.

Founded in 2004, Coraid developed a technology that enables disk drives to sit on a storage area network (SAN) using a new protocol called ATA-over-Ethernet (AoE), which its developers had already open sourced back in 2003. AoE is said to be a simple way to move disk storage out of servers and onto an Ethernet storage network.

With AoE, disk read/write requests are placed directly into Ethernet frames/packets – but the long and short of all this is that the firm’s EtherDrive storage is flying off the shelves for its price-performance advantages. Coraid already has over 1,500 customers including the likes of Sony Music Entertainment, GE and the US Marine Corps.

In a CBR interview, Coraid CEO Kevin Brown said it has several pieces of the thin provisioning puzzle in the EtherDrive product already, but that the next release will see full thin provisioning – that will happen this year but no further details are to be revealed until nearer the time.

Brown said the firm has seen a seven-fold increase in sales in the last two years. The company has taken on $85m in venture capital funding in the last two years as it builds out its operations internationally.

As well as the EtherDrive storage which is disk-based, the firm also has an EtherFlash product, which uses the same architecture but with flash drives. This is claimed to offer almost 200,000 IOPS in a shelf that starts at under $10/GB, and scales to over 3 million IOPS and up to 200TB in a rack.

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With enterprise data volumes doubling around every 18 months, there has been a rush in recent years for the large storage vendors to acquire new technologies. HP bought 3PAR for $2.35bn after a bidding war with Dell, and Dell subsequently bought Compellent for $820m. In June last year Oracle bought Pillar Data on undisclosed terms and then in September Hitachi Data Systems bought BlueArc, also on undisclosed terms.

Brown told us that although there will clearly be interest in the company from larger vendors, the intention is to build a large independent company, and the $85m VC investment gives the firm the right footing to do just that.

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