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Cleversafe Out With Dispersed Storage Network

Open source storage startup Cleversafe is moving into the second stage of its evolution, with new hardware appliances built on top of its core open source dispersed storage network technology.

The new products provide access, storage and management capabilities in hardware appliances with full commercial support. Cleversafe's DSN uses a mathematical formula known as the Cauchy Reed-Solomon Information Dispersal Algorithm (IDA) when dividing up (slicing) data for storage.

Data slices are stored across multiple nodes in order improve security and availability of data. The protocols and core technology behind the data slicing and access have all been developed in open source by Cleversafe.

There are three key offerings in the Cleversafe commercial portfolio. The CS-Accesser product is the Cleversafe device that acts as a storage router slicing and retrieving data in a dispersed storage network. The CS Slicestor is the actual storage server that host the data slices. Then there is the CS Manager, which handles management of the dispersed storage network as well as reporting.

Multiple Accessers and Slicestors can be deployed in a network to scale storage to meet enterprise requirements.

While Cleversafe would like adopters to use all three of its hardware appliances in combination, that's not an absolute requirement. Chris Gladwin, founder and CEO of Cleversafe, explained that since the key protocols are all open source, a white box vendor or individual enterprise could potentially do the same core dispersed storage network operations as Cleversafe's Accessor and Slicestor.

"Our commercial products include additional software beyond that which is in open source," Gladwin told InternetNews.com. "Most of it is management capabilities that are not included in open source release."

Gladwin also noted that Cleversafe appliance buyers will get the benefit of a commercially supported product. Those that do choose to run a dispersed storage whitebox of their own should be able to interoperate with Cleversafe's appliances. Though Gladwin cautioned that Cleversafe would not necessarily certify or support whitebox implementation in the same way as the commercially support hardware.

That said, Gladwin is really hoping that other vendors will actually pick up the open source release.

"We want there to be a true ecosystem here," Gladwin said. "We want to be a big fish in a massive pond and don't want to be the only fish in the pond."

Cleversafe's approach is competitive with traditional RAID storage technologies. Gladwin argued that the distributed storage network approach is a more resilient approach than RAID. That said Gladwin did note that scale has a lot to do with it too.

Gladwin admitted that on smaller storage arrays RAID can actually be more efficient than Cleversafe's approach form an overhead point of view. The problem in Gladwin's view is that RAID doesn't scale as well for larger arrays requiring more replication in order to achieve reliability as you add more hard drives to the mix.

"With dispersal the bigger the system is the more efficient it gets," Gladwin said. "So there is a scale tradeoff. Once you get to a certain scale you really do have to switch over. We think 100 TB is a good rule of thumb, if you've just got 10 TB of data then don't bother."