Let’s get things straight: You can’t beat CORAID on price, we’re talking about $0.40/GB, my guess is that they have the lowest Total Cost of Acquisition (TCA) of the entire enterprise storage industry, their average deal is in the 100TB ballpark with several multi-PB deployments around the world and that speaks volume about their economy of scale.
The company is private but financially sound as it is backed with a total of $85M in funding. The company received a first, $10M round in early 2010 (and they also moved to their new HQ in Redwood City) and then secured an additional $25 million in Series B funding in November 2010, followed by a third round of $50M in November 2011.
Technically they decided to go off the beaten path: create a new network storage protocol called AoE (ATA-over-ethernet), AoE has two major requirements to be used and operated: NICs (Intel’s) involved in AoE operations must be reflashed/reprogrammed with a firmware that present themselves as Parallel SCSI adapters to the host and the supporting Ethernet infrastructure must support Jumbo Frames end-to-end, During the presentation at Storage Field Day 1 they emphasized a lot on the lightweightness of the protocol you can catch the in-depth technical details in the presentation embedded below.
Their product, called Etherdrive SRX, presents itself to the host as a bunch of Parallel SCSI drives (when Etherdrive is configured as JBOD) or as a SCSI RAID device, Etherdrive SRX itself has no advanced functionalities embedded, but you can layer some interesting features by using your own LVM or by using CORAID’s EtherDrive VSX product that layers several must-have features like Async Replication, LVM, Mirroring, Snapshots and Clones.
Using an exotic network protocol push the compatibility matrix issue up to 11, I must say that CORAID has done a gigantic effort to support widely used platforms (Linux, Windows, Solaris, VMware) but it’s still something that needs to be factored in when planning a new storage deployment, especially if multiple compatibility matrix need to be matched.
CORAID‘s AoE protocol is supported under VMware platforms but only as a Partner Verified and Supported Products (PVSP), unfortunately this means that there is no commitment by VMware in supporting this driver directly and it’s not scheduled to be included in the default distribution.
The total-commodity approach (and the price) of CORAID is absolutely compelling if you’re looking for massive amounts of fast storage that can scale-out up to multiple petabytes, HPC and Media are two segments that are aggressively tackled by CORAID and I suspect that the new Big Data wave will easily embrace the CORAID scalable and cost-effective approach, but if you’re looking for a small, tightly-integrated, multi-protocol storage system, you could probably look elsewhere.
DISCLAIMER: CORAID was a sponsor of Storage Field Day 1, and as such was partly responsible for my airfare and hotel accommodations. CORAID did not ask for, nor did they receive any consideration for this article.