EMC targets cloud providers with Atmos

EMC Corp. announced on Monday a product that combines servers, disk drives and software for service providers wanting to offer different grades of cloud storage services.

Atmos, which is designed for organizations storing petabytes of content, is available now and is being used by Internet service providers, Web 2.0, media and entertainment companies, said Rob Lunney EMC’s director for western Canada.

Available in three configurations, Atmos uses metadata to stream content and manage it based on policies designed by users. The WS1-120 has eight servers and eight disk enclosures in a 40U cabinet, with a total of 120 TB. The WS1-240 has 16 servers and 16 disk enclosures, with a total of 240 TB, while the WS1-360 has six servers and 24 disk enclosures.

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“You’re going to build a configuration that’s going to best meet the service level that you’re providing,” Lunney said. “If you wanted as much capacity as possible in as dense a footprint as possible, you would select a 360 TB configuration. It would have a lower server to storage ratio.”

On the other hand, a company wanting to provide higher levels of service would purchase a configuration with less storage but more servers. With its policy-based management, EMC said companies can offer better services for higher prices.

“If you were pulling down a television program, for example, free (of charge), then there may be one copy centralized in a data centre in the United States,” Lunney said. “If you were a European user on the free subscription service, you may not get the best level of service. It may take longer, there may be some jitter, because you’re pulling it down from North America.”

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This management capability is something lacking in standard cloud computing offerings from companies like Google and Amazon, said Charles King, president and principal analyst of Concord, Mass.-based Pund-IT Inc.

“What’s been very interesting to me is the degree to which cloud offerings to date have really been very server centric,” King said. “These consist of thousands or tens of thousands of industry standard low-end servers that have been virtualized and optimized to provide very seamless application availability. Lost in the mix is exactly how storage and information management can best be optimized to support that type of application availability.”

Atmos can also be used by large companies offering cloud computing services for their various departments.

“We’ve had some large corporate clients showing interest in it,” Lunney said. “They would need to have a highly distributed corporate infrastructure, they need to be petabyte scale, so what might fit would be software as a service and cloud computing applications. Most corporate applications have not evolved to that. For unstructured data they are still file-based.”

For the service providers, the policy management is one way of charging more money for more popular services, King suggested.

“Say you’re a media company that decides to deliver streaming video online, you might want to charge a higher fee for hit movie that’s just become available online for the first week or month or two but as the number of people interested in watching that video declines it would be appropriate to drop the cost and increase the availability of the film,” he said.

Atmos includes replication, versioning, compression, de-duplication and disk drive spin-down capabilities.

“If it’s a free service, the company that’s going to use Atmos is going to want to keep their costs down as much as possible,” Lunney said.

In a report titled “Atmos – EMC’s First Infrastructure Solution for Cloud Computing,” King noted the software can help manage the distribution of information, and allow users to add or reduce the number of files according to how they are accessed.

“Atmos indicates how seriously EMC take the enormous, unbridled growth of online information and provides a way for the company and its customers to successfully meet those challenge and opportunities,” King wrote.

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