Startup touts ‘utility-class’ storage

Startup 3PARdata Inc. ushered in a new form of storage this week it calls ‘utility’ storage, which uses an architecture that lets companies compartmentalize their storage by departments and charge for its use.

The company says utility-class storage differs from monolithic storage from companies such as EMC Corp. and Hitachi Data Systems Corp. in that the utility array is modular and built for multiple departments, rather than being subdivided as EMC’s and Hitachi’s boxes are.

3PAR’s InServ array will attach to any Unix, Linux or Windows NT/2000 server and comes with its own storage – 3 terabytes per enclosure. It uses 3PAR’s InSpire storage architecture and a variety of software to accomplish backup and recovery, snapshot backup or replication for fault-tolerance.

The 3PAR InServe comes in three models – the S200, S400 and S800 – with up to 6 terabytes in a 4U (7-inch)-high space. Each module houses 40 drives. Drives are linked to up to eight controller nodes, letting users grow the system as their storage and space requirements change.

Each controller uses dual Pentium III processors. Controllers are linked to the backplane by a 28G-byte/sec link. An eight-processor system may use as many as 192 Fibre Channel ports. Components such as fans and power supplies are hot-swappable.

The S200 is the smallest of 3PAR’s arrays – it has two controllers and up to 94 terabytes of capacity. The S400, with two to four controllers, has an upward capacity of 188 terabytes. The S800 tops the other two at 376 terabytes.

3PAR doesn’t bring just hardware alone to the table. It has a line of storage software that allows it to virrtualize the disks, perform hundreds of snapshots of data that can be written to other media, and software that tracks and manages service levels.

Right now, the company doesn’t have much direct competition. 3PAR positions its box against storage vendors such as EMC, Hitachi or IBM, but says that boxes from Yotta Yotta or Cereva fit the utility model better.

Cereva is still in stealth mode after three-and-a-half years in development. Yotta Yotta is, too. 3PAR has received US$121 million in funding over the course of its development.

The company will ship its systems in the third quarter, starting at less than $100,000.