Coraid: Why They Matter
Coraid provides networked block-based storage but is different from SAN storage solutions because it actually eliminates the need for a SAN. Their thesis is that in the virtual data center the SAN is no longer required. Additionally, they believe that the legacy SAN protocols are past their prime and actually cause many of the problems inherent with storage networks. Another important dynamic that has changed the rules of the game is the relentless growth of data storage. Traditional storage systems were built for the terabyte (TB) world and not for petabytes (PB) of storage. Price, performance, scalability, manageability, reliability - are all impacted by sheer mass.
Today it is fairly common for even midsize companies to have 100s of TBs and larger enterprises to have PBs of storage and it continues to grow. Therefore PB data centers will be ubiquitous over the next decade and are quite common already. It is no longer "business as usual" and a new approach is required to address the challenges created just by sheer mass. If you have 1,000 tons to transport do you really want a truck that was designed to carry just a 1 ton payload?
The Coraid vision is to eliminate traditional or legacy SANs and replace it with a new way to network storage. It uses what they believe is a more efficient protocol that has greater cooperation between the host and storage; massive scalability in capacity, processing power and memory, near linear performance growth for both IOPS and throughput, is easier to support regardless of how much capacity is under management, and is extremely cost effective. Coraid's pricing message is that the cost of a PB of storage from them is less than what customer would pay for the software maintenance with EMC and NetApp storage.
This isn't a commercial for Coraid. I am not using their storage however I am working with a company that is and they really like the value proposition. They aren't thrilled with having to put a card in their servers (which is required for Windows but not for Linux environments). However, the value proposition is such that they are willing to overlook this issue. Coraid isn't feature-rich and their position is that they get these functions from either the virtualization layer, file system or the application layer. Over time this will become more true, if you will. Functions like snapshots and replication do exist on the upper layers and are becoming more sophisticated and widely available. Additionally, it is often the case that these features aren't necessary for the uses cases that customers are using Coraid for including Tier 3 storage.
Where the rubber meets the road for me is success with customers. I have been doing this a long time and every storage vendor that has ever met with me has given me a great story about their products. But it all comes down to whether customers are putting their money where their mouths are. It is especially hard for a startup to convince IT customers to buy something new from a small emerging vendor. However, Coraid is booming. And I am very impressed with Coraid's vision. It could be that customers just want cheaper and easy to manage storage but that isn't necessarily in conflict with their vision. It is an outcome of it. I like the idea of creating a sea change that is inevitable because the old rules no longer apply.
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