Cereva eyes scalable storage for service providers

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MARLBOROUGH, MASS. -- Start-up Cereva Networks is planning to introduce a storage subsystem early this year that exceeds the scalability and performance of storage and network infrastructure devices now used by ISPs, application service providers and storage service providers to deliver rich media content more quickly to customers.

Currently unnamed, the storage subsystem will exceed one petabyte (1,000 terabytes) of capacity and is suited to very large-scale, high-growth data shops that require flexible and on-demand storage, analysts say.

"The subsystem is designed out of the box to be a rich media system," says Steve Duplessie, an analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group. "Today, users who need 500 terabytes or more of storage cobble together a ton of EMC and Network Appliance file servers and Brocade Fibre Channel switches and have a nightmare on their hands."

The Cereva array will contain switching capability and the ability to remove much of the processing that is done on the CPU itself. It will also have fault-tolerant features, such as redundant power supplies and fans.

It supports different drive sizes, and companies can add drives without disrupting system uptime, as they need more storage while maintaining their investment protection. "The SSP market has to have the ability to provide storage on demand without disrupting operations," says Adam Couture, an analyst with Gartner Group. "Customers need to be able to access storage instantly depending on the traffic spikes in their businesses. The ability of the Cereva array to compartmentalize storage into a single shared resource is important."

For Peter Kirwin, chief technology officer of managed hosting company Navisite in Andover, Mass., the Cereva array "enables 'utility' computing models, with more usage-based pricing and less wasted storage for customers."

Duplessie says the Cereva array will be able to handle storing the same text and numbers that traditional RAID storage arrays do, as well as multiple concurrent video streams from different users.

Navisite recently streamed a Madonna concert to a reported nine million viewers using 700M bit/sec streams. A device such as the Cereva box, which can handle large-scale streaming events, would be ideal for this purpose, Kirwin says.

"Storage demands are skyrocketing for databases but more importantly, for rich media, especially streaming," Kirwin says. "We believe streaming will explode in 2001, especially in the enterprise market. This is new to many companies, and they can't predict storage needs, so having a massive scale upside is helpful."

Cereva's subsystem will be rack-mounted and capable of expansion. Initially, a single subsystem will consist of seven 7-foot rack enclosures, each containing 17 terabytes of disk space for a total of almost 120 terabytes, which can connect to "hundreds and hundreds of servers," the company claims. Equipment from EMC, Hitachi Data Systems and Hewlett-Packard has upward capaacities ranging from 27 to 37 terabytes.

The Cereva subsystem attaches to the Internet via routers, Layer 4 switches and reverse proxy caching devices. It also has multiple Fibre Channel connections to storage-area networks for block and streaming media data, and Gigabit Ethernet connections for network-attached storage, HTTP or FTP data.

The Gartner Group estimates the size of the SSP market alone will grow from $10 million in 1999 to more than $7.5 billion in 2003.

Founded and managed by veterans of IBM, Thinking Machines, Cabletron, Compaq and Newbridge Networks, well-heeled Cereva is expected to beta-test its subsystem this quarter. The company received $110 million in venture backing from a variety of investment partners.

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