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Cleversafe Distributes Open Source Storage

Open source storage startup Cleversafe is set to challenge the decades-old RAID approach to distributing storage with its global Dispersed Storage Network (DSN).

With a traditional RAID array, data is striped across a number of disks, a fixed number of which are required to be operational for the data to be recreated. With its new DSN release, Cleversafe is allowing users to specify how many locations the data will be sliced across and how many active nodes a user will need in order to recreate the data.

"Slicing and dispersing is different than just striping across an array," Russ Kennedy, vice president of product management at Cleversafe, told InternetNews.com. "Those stripes are all in a single array; we're dispersing across what could be a global network."

Kennedy explained that in Cleversafe's initial release, the software required a fixed 11 nodes in order to have a DSN setup, with six nodes required to recreate the data. With the new release the user has the flexibility to specify the size of the network and the number of nodes required for recovery. So for example an enterprise could set up a DSN with eight nodes and specify that they only need three of them to recover the data.

Cleversafe's DSN uses a mathematical formula known as the Cauchy Reed-Solomon Information Dispersal Algorithm (IDA) when slicing data. Each data slice on its own is unusable, so if one node of the storage network is comprised, the data as a whole is still safe. Kennedy also noted that the data is encrypted providing an additional degree of security.

Christopher Gladwin, chairman of the board and CTO at Cleversafe, told InternetNews.com that while IDAs have been known to mathematicians for some time, Cleversafe is the first to use them commercially.

"We could have started as a proprietary technology or do what we're doing now, with making it a public open source effort," he said. "We decided to open source our implementation of Cauchy Reed-Solomon and the protocols associated with it so there could be a common foundation on which we and others can build."

The idea is that competition is a good thing for both Cleversafe and for customers since it will expand the available market and awareness of the approach.

Cleversafe has chosen the GPL version 2 for its DSN software in order to help grow the ecosystem and the technology. GPL is a reciprocal license and requires developers to add code to the DSN to contribute it back into the project.

Beyond the open source code, Cleversafe has also patented at least four inventions related to DSN, with more to follow. There is no conflict between GPL v2 and Cleversafe's patents, Gladwin said.

"If you're using GPL and following the rules, then you're fine and if you don't then you're not," Gladwin said.

The Cleversafe DSN currently is specified to work on Linux, though for now Cleversafe is all about software and does not yet have hardware in the marketplace. That's going to change next year though when Cleversafe will roll out products.