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March 20, 2012updated 22 Aug 2016 1:06pm

OnApp will rain on storage vendors’ parade this summer

Plucky firm plans SAN assault

By Jason Stamper

Ditlev Bredahl

Ditlev Bredahl, OnApp CEO

Cloud and content delivery network (CDN) player OnApp today officially announced its upcoming storage play, OnApp Storage. CBR exclusively broke news of the impending launch last September.

The firm is aiming its new storage technology at service providers as well as enterprises, saying that it will offer the ability to turn commodity disks in low-cost servers into high performance, fully redundant storage arrays at a fraction of the cost of more traditional SAN gear.

"Storage is typically the biggest cost for a company deploying a public or private cloud, and it is also the most important component: if your SAN fails, people lose data," said Ditlev Bredahl, CEO of OnApp. "Our distributed storage model does away with the bottlenecks and scaling issues of traditional SANs – while keeping data safe – and doesn’t require massive capital outlay on proprietary hardware."

OnApp Storage was developed in OnApp’s R&D center in Cambridge, UK. The OnApp Storage team includes developers of the original OSS Xen and Citrix XenServer platform storage stack, and is led by storage & virtualisation architect Julian Chesterfield.

When CBR originally broke news of the upcoming storage product, Bredahl had told us the launch could be as early as January this year. Speaking to CBR again last week, the firm’s CEO conceded that there has been a short delay. "There has been [a delay] because we wanted to be absolutely sure OnApp Storage is rock solid," Bredahl said. "If a company’s SAN fails they are pretty screwed, so while the first version will not be what you might call fully featured, our priority has been performance and stability."

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The OnApp Storage has been in beta testing with a small number of customers since Christmas, and several service providers are already running the technology in production. It’s likely that the first set of customers for OnApp Storage will be amongst the firm’s existing base of cloud and CDN providers.

The technology is a distributed block storage platform that enables companies to build what OnApp says will be high performance, highly resilient SANs using standard SATA and SSD drives in hypervisor servers. It uses patent pending ‘smart disk’ technology to overcome the performance, scalability and price limitations of legacy SAN products, the company claims, creating a fast, resilient storage platform with ‘pay-as-you-grow’ pricing.

"OnApp Storage is on the cutting edge of storage virtualization and cloud technology," said Daniel Hoffman, CTO of SlicedTech, a provider of cloud services for government and enterprise clients. "By adding OnApp Storage to our OnApp cloud platform we can increase the flexibility or our tiered storage offering without impacting our existing service delivery framework. OnApp Storage allows us to offer more robust and tailored storage solutions while at the same time saving money on rack space, power and cooling."

OnApp’s storage & virtualisation architect Julian Chesterfield told us that while the technology does not support the official RAID levels, it will offer full redundancy and failed drives can be hot-swapped without bringing the system offline – data on a failed drive will automatically have been replicated to other drives. The ‘smart disk’ technology sits on the drives themselves rather than in some sort of centralized manner like a hub and spoke federation of disks – Chesterfield said this attribute means scalability is almost limitless.

While Bredahl originally said that OnApp Storage would offer Amazon S3-compatible API’s, this is not a feature that will make the first version, which is planned to hit general availability in August. Storage or server admins get a graphical user interface with which to configure the size and attributes of the storage area network.

OnApp says it has around 450 paying customers for its existing cloud and CDN products.

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