Yesterday I had the opportunity to be briefed by Zadara Storage. The company, born in 2011 and with its HQ in Silicon Valley, has an interesting solution that actually enables Service Providers to offer a Storage-as-a Service or, more precisely, a “Storage-Array-as-a-Service”.
The idea is quite simple and brilliant at the same time.
Zadara wants to provide a storage solution that has all the advantages (and functions) of an ordinary storage array without its limits and rigidity, delivering it via cloud with a pay-as-you-go model. To do so they have architected a very clever software that emulates physical storage arrays (each tenant is a Virtual Array) which can be bought by users on an hourly basis in function of effectively allocated resources.
How it works
Basically, Zadara’s Virtual Private Storage Array (VPSA) is a software solution than can be installed in a cluster of servers connected with 10GBe links (the very minimum is 3 nodes but it can scale to hundreds, and more in the future). The software is based on an Ubuntu-derived linux distribution that manages as many VMs as possible: it’s limited to the amount of available resources on the node. Each VM is a Virtual Controller (two VCs form a high availability, dual controller, array). VCs have access to physical disks that will be part of the array’s RAID groups. The cool thing is that each VPSA has direct access to its disks (even if they are dispersed across the cluster). In practice the end users can buy the type of controller (4 different sizes available) and the physical disks that will be part of the array!!!
That’s a very unusual approach but it also has its advantages. The first that comes to my mind is the complete separation of data and (partially) the IOPS for each VPSA: it can be easily viewed as a partitioning and QoS mechanism.
The end user can easily reconfigure the array (buying more disks or upgrading the controller for example) without service disruption and while paying on an hourly basis for the allocated resources. SSDs can be used to create traditional raid groups or for read/write caching!
The VPSA has many of the features that you look for in a modern array like thin provisioning, snapshot and remote replicas (but, at the moment, I don’t know the details as to how they are implemented or anything about their overall efficiency). Theoretically the end user can buy two VPSAs from two different providers and replicate data between them!
VPSA can export iSCSI volumes or NFS shares.
The user has access to a very well designed web interface to manage and monitor the Array as well as the ability to buy and/or release hardware components. All the operations can be performed in a non disruptively manner.
On the ISP side all the operations on the Zadara Storage can be performed via API (Openstack Cinder and VMware vCloud integrations are available).
The solution is available to end users and service providers. The firsts can buy the service directly from Zadara (or its partners) the latter can implement the product and sell the service to their customers. Zadara is also proposing a very interesting “pay-as-you-sell” model to the ISP that would like to begin with a minimal investment.
I really like the idea behind Zadara’s product but I haven’t had the opportunity to try it. The solution looks very interesting and there are many possible scenarios where Zadara can be potentially successful.
I also like that Zadara is proposing its solution directly to end users through some tier 1 service providers like Amazon AWS and DimensionData. I do not consider it a threat for the local ISP but, on the contrary, an opportunity to drive sales of local VSPA to customers that can manage replicas of their data on a remote (international) ISP.