Can Evault Make Storage-as-a-Service Work?

We’ve all heard many times how data is growing, especially unstructured data, and how companies are faced with huge piles of files they may never need but can’t delete – legally or simply because the data owners won’t make those decisions. But there are a growing number of use cases where very large data sets are stored with the full expectation that they’ll be needed, and must be brought back quickly.

Examples of this kind of ‘long tail’ demand are common in the media and entertainment industry, specifically content streaming, or the medial industry where practitioners often need the records of a new patient, but can’t wait more than a few minutes for them. What’s called for is a low latency, on-line storage solution that’s essentially boundless with respect to capacity – but not cost. EVault’s new Long Term Storage Service (LTS2) is designed for just these scenarios.

A New Kind of Storage-as-a-Service

According to EVault, true long-term storage doesn’t exist, since the current alternatives have no long-term integrity checking, and are constrained by other issues like inefficient data handling. LTS2 is a Storage-as-a Service (STaaS) that uses an object storage system deployed on commodity hardware. The object-based architecture provides the rich metadata that supports digital fingerprinting and other processes to ensure data integrity. This architecture also delivers real scalability and the economics that traditional RAID-based systems can’t touch, thanks in part to the low cost of hardware.

OpenStack

EVault is also going with the OpenStack Swift storage platform, making an interesting point that open source solutions have another advantage in this use case, besides lower cost. Over the long term, open source solutions actually have better ‘survivability’ than proprietary products, since the technology roadmap is not dependent on a specific organization of developers. In fact, open source products typically out-live people or companies.

EVault was quick to point out that they are adding significant value to this solution, over and above the generally available OpenStack distributions. They’ve added data integrity measures at the object level with digital fingerprinting and an embedded health check process, plus they have an audit-able event tracking mechanism that logs data access and management events. They have also taken steps to leverage the rich metadata capabilities that object storage has to improve data access and analytics.

Seagate’s Kinetic Drives

Another innovation that EVault will employ is the Kinetic drive technology that Seagate recently announced. Even if EVault wasn’t owned by Seagate, this technology would still be an ideal fit for a cloud storage use case like LTS2. The REST connectivity of these drives supports new, simpler storage architectures that collapse the storage ‘stack’, replacing high cost storage controllers and file systems with direct data access by applications, enabled by the key-value language of object storage.

Users will be able to access LTS2 in a number of ways, including an EVault web GUI, a thick client and though a command line interface (CLI). But the company expects the majority of data to be accessed by applications, such as backup, file sharing and archives. For these, a REST API or a CIFS/NFS/iSCSI gateway will provide access. Customers will also be able to bulk-import and export data into the EVault cloud by physically shipping storage devices or media (like tape) to the data center.

Data SLAs, Portability and Survivorship

In addition to ‘real’ long-term data protection, EVault is also offering a real SLA which proactively compensates users if data is lost or data is unavailable (a big difference). To guard against the cloud provider going out of business (the ‘Nirvanix clause’), EVault is accruing funds to cover the costs of moving customers’ data to another provider in the unlikely event that EVault goes bankrupt, or simply gets out of the cloud provider business. They’ve also made it easy to leave for any reason if a customer so chooses by allowing a one-time data transfer at no cost.

Pricing is $15.36/TB per month for a simple local copy and twice that for ‘geo-redundancy’ (data spread out across multiple locations). Customers can add premium SLAs and other features such as a cloud gateway for an additional per-TB monthly charge.

Storage Swiss Take

The concept of cloud-based storage-as-a-service is as old as the cloud itself, and was around before the technology existed to actually make it feasible. A lot of companies have gotten into the cloud space, some actually providing a ‘pure’ storage play, but most have migrated to a specific use case, like backup or file sharing. EVault and Seagate are betting that this time things will be different for a cloud-based storage service, that the market and the technology have combined to create a tipping point.

Their SLAs of data portability and survivorship are unique in this space, giving them a strong case to make with the users who’ve been on the sidelines about cloud-based storage. Their combination of technologies like object storage, an open-source platform and the promise of Seagate’s Kinetic drives may just give them the economics to make this work.

EVault is not a client of Storage Switzerland

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Eric is an Analyst with Storage Switzerland and has over 25 years experience in high-technology industries. He’s held technical, management and marketing positions in the computer storage, instrumentation, digital imaging and test equipment fields. He has spent the past 15 years in the data storage field, with storage hardware manufacturers and as a national storage integrator, designing and implementing open systems storage solutions for companies in the Western United States.  Eric earned degrees in electrical/computer engineering from the University of Colorado and marketing from California State University, Humboldt.  He and his wife live in Colorado and have twins in college.

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