ADIC's shared file system to extend SANs to Linux

Advanced Digital Information (ADIC) is adding support for the Linux operating system in its shared file system CentraVision, the company announced today. The move means that users of Linux servers will be able to use SANs (storage area networks) to share applications data with users of Unix and Windows NT servers.

CentraVision currently supports Microsoft's Windows NT and Silicon Graphics' Unix operating system Irix. ADIC expects to demonstrate CentraVision's Linux support at a number of trade shows in April and plans to release Linux support in the software in May, according to Steve Whitner, ADIC marketing director, speaking in a phone interview Monday. Next up will be support for Sun Microsystems's Unix OS Solaris some time later this year, he added.

CentraVision enables a variety of workstations and servers to share data from a common central disk via a SAN. This process is faster and easier to manage than it is to deal with traditional file systems which allow users to share files by duplicating the data and moving it from server to server in a network, Whitner said. CentraVision allows users to see the data as if it's a file native to the OS they are running, be it Windows NT, Irix, or Linux, he added.

"They're on the right track; what the world wants is a shared file system," said Steve Duplessie, senior analyst at The Enterprise Storage Group, in Milford, Mass., in a phone interview on Tuesday. "Every serious Unix player is working on this; that's why IBM bought Andrews File System. Veritas is the closest to ADIC's CentraVision, as they're working on a clustered shared system for the end of this year."

The first way that customers are using CentraVision is for sharing large visual file applications, for example, when a group of people are collaborating on creating digital effects for motion pictures, where one frame of video can contain 50MB to 100MB of data, Whitner said. CentraVision also is being used for satellite weather forecasting, where different people are extrapolating different parameters such as wind speed and temperature from the same data, he added.

However, the file sharing system really should take off in the Web hosting market, Whitner said. "It won't be one big file being shared by multiple people, but a number of files being sent to a number of different servers where you don't know the level of demand for the files which could reach one million hits an hour," he added.

Support for Linux is key in the Web-hosting arena where, analysts estimate, about 30 percent of the hosting already is being carried out by Linux servers, Whitner said. "We have a customer who wants to use Linux in visual group processing environments to have a number of Linux machines all running in parallel to form a supercomputer to look at satellite images," he added.

Duplessie agreed that support for Linux is crucial. "Linux has had a significantly faster adoption rate in the mainstream than I'd have remotely thought possible a year ago," he said. "Linux is already dominating a lot of Web application and server environments."

Next year, according to ADIC's Whitner, many more large video files will be made available over the Web, meaning the demand for central file storage systems is likely to escalate.

ADIC acquired the CentraVision product when the company bought SAN software company MountainGate Imaging Systems in September of last year. "MountainGate was in the development phase, but hadn't launched CentraVision, they had a dozen or so active users," Whitner said. "We're moving ahead on the technology."

Duplessie said he was initially concerned when ADIC acquired MountainGate that the storage tape and backup company might try and change its business to focus purely on CentraVision. "ADIC is smart not to try to become a file system company," he said. "The CentraVision technology is far more capable, but ADIC's reined in its scope to more comfortably fit with their 'existing' business."

Pricing for CentraVision starts from $5,000 per seat.

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