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December 15, 2011

OnApp storage will go head-to-head with Amazon

Cloud firm will have SAN technology in production as early as January, helping its hosting customers compete with Amazon S3

By Jason Stamper

Ditlev Bredahl OnApp

Ditlev Bredahl, OnApp founder and CEO

OnApp, a cloud and content delivery network (CDN) specialist, will have storage area networking (SAN) technology ready for launch in Q1 next year but possibly as soon as January, CBR has learned.

OnApp’s plans to offer its hosting customers storage technology – and for they in turn to offer cloud storage to their own customers – will take the company into competition with both traditional on-premise storage companies as well as cloud storage offerings.

Speaking to CBR, OnApp founder and CEO Ditlev Bredahl said that the storage technology is currently in beta testing with several major telcos and numerous hosters, though one of OnApp’s customers has already deployed it into production. "We won’t have a production ready – fully featured – version of the OnApp SAN before Q1. Hopefully Jan, but Q1 for sure," Bredahl said.

Bredahl, who founded OnApp in 2010 and already claims 700 customers mostly in the cloud hosting and content delivery network (CDN) space, said the focus of the first storage offering from the firm has been on stability, redundancy and performance. The SAN technology works in a hosting provider’s current infrastructure, saving them having to buy dedicated storage arrays or appliances.

Bredahl said that it was also key that there is true redundancy across the infrastructure so that no data can be lost in the event of a hardware failure.

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Bredahl also said that the technology will be paid for monthly, i.e on a per Gigabyte per month basis. That will save its hosting customers on an up-front capex investment – again a positive for many where margins are often thin and rival storage arrays require a considerable up-front investment.

There will be three pricing models. One for storage related to OnApps other hosting or CDN technology, one for non-OnApp storage and one for what Bredahl called object storage, which sounds like an Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) competitor. Indeed it will also feature S3-compatible APIs to make it simpler for hosters to manage and configure. OnApp will basically help its hosting companies compete with Amazon S3 using the spare capacity in their data centres.

OnApp’s storage offering has not come out of the blue – Bredahl hired as his storage and virtualisation architect Julian Chesterfield towards the beginning of the year. Chesterfield was an early member of XenSource, the Cambridge University spinout company that developed Xen, the open source hypervisor acquired by Citrix in 2008. He was the storage development team lead and senior architect for both the XenServer and Xen products.

Bredahl said the firm will be relatively conservative with the launch next year, rolling it into production at 20 or 30 hosters and ensuring it is absolutely bullet-proof before it makes a big PR splash about it.

Finally Bredahl said that the company is still on the lookout for interesting acquisition candidates. It bought CDN provider Aflexi in August, and would presumably be interested in any related technologies that it can sell into its existing hosting provider customer base. "We have nothing specific in mind right now," Bredahl said.

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