Putting a new face on networked storage

DataPlow-Zetera alliance promises fast, affordable file access for the masses

You may have forgotten about Zetera, a relatively new storage player recently mentioned in this column.

In brief, the company invented a revolutionary storage architecture that eliminates controllers and opens a direct data path between hosts and disk drives across IP networks. We should see products based on Zetera technology coming to market soon, starting with consumer-grade offerings from Netgear, followed later this summer by enterprise-level solutions from StorCase and Bell Microproducts.

Although I am as eager as you probably are to see those new products, there's another reason for my interest in Zetera, and it's called DataPlow.

DataPlow has been offering fast-performing SAN and NAS file systems across FC (Fibre Channel) and iSCSI networks for quite a few years. In fact, Zetera and DataPlow have recently entered (and I quote from the press release) "a strategic alliance … to bundle DataPlow's SAN-based file system software with Zetera-enabled network storage products."

Why should we be interested? Because the two technologies complement each other in a surprising way, and their union creates a new and powerful alternative to traditional file-serving solutions based on FC or iSCSI networks.

Think of it this way: Zetera promises virtually unlimited capacity and performance with its nonhierarchical structure and unrestricted access to any disk device from any server. On the other hand, DataPlow offers a parallel freedom with its file systems. For example, by using DataPlow SFS (SAN File System), you get fast file access from servers and clients on your network, without concern for system type. 

Allow me to clarify that SFS is a SAN file system, and it competes with similar solutions such as CentraVision File System from ADIC, Tivoli SANergy from IBM, and CXFS (Clustered Extended File System) from SGI.

According to DataPlow, SFS offers exceptionally fast performance for write-intensive applications such as order-entry systems for popular items. In addition, DataPlow's portfolio includes Nasan, a more conventional NAS system that offers even better performance than SFS wherever file reads are much more frequent than writes (think office documents, for example).

DataPlow file system software runs on a variety of popular platforms, including Linux, SGI IRIX, Sun Solaris, and Windows, which suggests deployments to a wide range of customers, from entry-level to midtier enterprise shops.

I am obviously speculating, because products and prices have yet to be announced, but it's reasonable to expect fast, scalable, and competitively priced SAN solutions from the bundling of Zetera-based decentralized storage networks and DataPlow's ubiquitous file system software.

With that in mind, we have now one more reason to be excited by -- and to keep an eye on -- the upcoming products based on Zetera's unique networking structure. Anyone want to guess in what area Zetera's next "strategic alliance" might be? I have a hunch, but I'll keep it to myself for now.

Join me on The Storage Network blog to discuss this and other topics.