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Startup Aims to Store Longterm Data

With so many new government regulations, IT managers are increasingly turning to storage companies who can deliver products that can address loads of long-term data that is not permitted to change, according to compliance rules.

The pressure on enterprises has paved the way for startups like Archivas to address a segment of the market experts call "fixed content."

The Waltham, Mass., company, which officially launches on Monday, is developing a special storage system that targets such files as check images, contract records or satellite images that are accessed frequently but cannot be altered.

Called ArC, the file system is object-based. Objects include a file, its metadata (data about the file) and file policies, meaning ArC stores and retrieves archive objects, not volumes or files, according to Asim Zaheer, vice president of marketing and product management.

Zaheer told internetnews.com ArC differs from competing products such as EMC's Centera and Permabit's Permeon because it features a fixed content repository that can be clustered among multiple applications.

By contrast, users must dedicate one EMC Centera per application, making it a more costly proposition. EMC also doesn't distribute their metadata across the files. Permabit's products store files, unlike the object-based approach Archivas and EMC employ.

Because Archivas has created ArC to store 50 million objects per node for hundreds of nodes, users have the ability to store petabytes (a quadrillion bytes) of data as opposed to the usual terabyte scale in this sector.

More generally, Zaheer said Archivas envisions its products could substitute for tape systems that are unreliable or too slow and RAID storage, which he said is better suited for high performance, but not the high scalability of terabytes or petabytes required for archival storage. Disk-based storage is also expensive.

ArC also offers heterogeneous systems support.

"On the back-end, you can layer our software on top of industry-standard components from HP, IBM, Linux Networks and also interchange the type of disk that you employ the data," Zaheer said. "That makes us completely unique in this marketplace."

Moreover, because it is a clustered, redundant array of independent nodes, if one node fails the data is recreated using the protection blocks of all the other nodes and it's distributed across the entire cluster. Customers can also changing applications or system platforms without impacting their ability to store and retrieve content.

ArC, which is currently in beta test with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, was praised by one industry analyst for its refreshing approach.

"This technology arrives at an opportune time; just as the demand for fixed content storage capacity is high and continues to grow, the limitations of traditional archive solutions are apparent," said Enterprise Storage Group analyst Peter Gerr, in a statement.

ArC will be available in September 2004, with pricing to be announced at that time.