Open Source Storage Takes on RAID

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A storage startup hopes to make a name for itself by basing its solutions almost entirely on open source technologies.

The company even chose a not-so-subtle name to get the point across: Open Source Storage, complete with the domain name

Linux and other open source technologies are found in a broad range of enterprise storage technologies, the full extent of which isn’t known because vendors don’t generally talk about their underlying platforms and analysts don’t track them. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Open Source Storage, on the other hand, is using its underlying technologies as a selling point for a trio of new RAID offerings.

At the high end is the RS8000, which includes the open source MySQL database, support for up to 32GB of RAM and space for up to 40 hot-swappable SCSI or SATAdrives. The mid-tier RS3000 solution supports up to 16 GB of RAM and has space for 16 hot-swappable drives. At the entry level, Open Source Storage is offering the RS1000, which handles four drives and up to 24GB of RAM. The new RAID products are all available with either AMD or Intel processors.

The actual operating system used by Open Source Storage on the RAID solutions varies depending on the client, and the choice may extend beyond Linux. Eren Niazi, president, CEO and founder of Open Source Storage, explained that Fortune 100 clients typically use Solaris as their chosen OS.

On the enterprise Linux side, Niazi noted that some customers don’t like the price tag associated with traditional enterprise offerings, so Open Source Storage uses something called CentOS. CentOS is a Red Hat Enterprise Linux “clone” that is unaffiliated with Red Hat. CentOS uses the same basic source as Red Hat, but is supported via an open source community effort. Red Hat’s own community distribution, Fedora Core, is also a potential option for Open Source Storage customers.

Niazi noted that his firm provides OS benchmarks and customers choose based on their own needs. Custom options are also available. “If they ask us to recompile the kernels, we have a programming team that can reprogram things, create drivers and things like that as well,” Niazi said.

Management of the RAID servers is also done (not surprisingly) using an open source solution. The Nagios ( open source host, service and network monitoring program is the one that is typically adopted by users, according to Niazi.

“All we’re doing is tailoring the software to meet customer needs,” Niazi told Enterprise Storage Forum. “We don’t like to reinvent the wheel too much.”

Niazi said he ran into a lot of skepticism at first when he decided to launch a storage company based on open source technologies.

“When I started the company in 2001, a lot of people laughed,” Niazi said. “They said a lot of people have failed at what you are doing, you’re going to fail. We’ve now grown to millions and millions of sales.”

Although open source is the company’s core focus, that doesn’t mean Niazi will turn away a customer who wants to use Microsoft with the company’s solutions. “First, we’ll try and educate how open source will save money, but if not, we’ll still help him out,” he said.

Although Open Source Storage makes use of open source software, it’s not above patenting its own hardware technology. Niazi said the company will be launching a new patent-pending vertical patch panel that increases cooling and minimizes the required amount of cabling.

Patents have been generally looked down upon by the open source community as “non-open,” but Niazi doesn’t see any issue with patenting the new hardware product.

“The patch panel is a piece of sheet metal,” Niazi said. “It’s our design that can be used in any configuration. The only reason we patented it is we don’t want people to copy our patch panel design. But all of our hardware inside the system is open standards, the software is open standards. The only thing we’re patenting is a mechanical difference that will make us excel versus the competition.”

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Sean Michael Kerner
Sean Michael Kerner
Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.

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