The first session of Storage Field Day 3 was with Exablox. Exablox publicly announced its products during the event (ant that’s great, indeed!).
The company was born in 2010 and already went through two funding series for a total of M$ 22.5 from various Venture capitalists. Exablox is based in Sunnyvale (CA).
The technology behind the product is very clever: version 1.0 shows only a part of it but Exablox has a lot of potential and definitely deserves a look!

What is exablox

Exablox has two products: a box called OneBlox and a cloud management platform called OneSystem.
As I anticipated in the title, this is a scale out storage system and, this is the most interesting thing to me, it has a smart object storage back-end.
This first version of the product exposes SMB protocol and they’ll support more protocols in future versions (NFS will probably come next). OneBlox is primarily targeted to SMB, in fact it supports very small configurations at the moment (8 disks per node with a maximum of 6 nodes for a total of 48 SATA disks). In any case this is only a first step, the underlaying architecture can potentially scale up to hundreds of nodes and I’m sure that Exablox will take full advantage from their technology in future versions.

The magic sauce (the architecture)

This is not an ordinary SMB storage and it doesn’t work in an ordinary way, the object storage backend does all the magic: No RAID, No Spares, No volumes, No complexity! OneBlox doesn’t use traditional protection mechanisms (like RAID) but data are dispersed and replicated in the cluster nodes.
In a few words, all nodes and disks form a “ring” and the data are intelligently distributed in the ring allowing the maximum utilization of resources in terms of space and performance.
In practice with a fully configured system you can lose up to two entire nodes and still have access to your data.
Last but not least, a smart snapshots mechanism and remote replication are available from day one as well as data deduplication to reduce space utilization.

Ease of use

All the management is demanded to the OneSystem management tool. This is a cloud hosted application with all its pros (and cons).
The good thing is that the end user doesn’t need to install and maintain the tool (it’s perfect for SMB) but, on the flipside it’s risky because if your ADSL link is down you can’t access the management interface!
The Web UI is well designed and the home page dashboard gives all the necessary health information with a quick glance. Adding shares and managing AD is an easy job too.
Also adding new nodes to the cluster is a seamless operation and needs a few clicks to be accomplished.
You’ll find a complete demo of the product down below:

Bottom line

Exablox team have been doing a good job, this is version 1.0 and has a number of limitations (quantity of nodes, only SMB protocol, etc.) but, at the same time, it already shows smart features and a great potential.
It’s also affordable: a fully configured appliance with 32TB of space (8 4TB disks) costs less than $10.000 and that makes Exablox a valid solution for many tier 2 storage applications.
Next versions of the product will show up much more than that and I’m confident that we will see hyper-V and NFS/VMware support soon… with these kind of features Exablox could easily become an all-in-one storage solution for the smaller SMBs!

From my point of view, the object backend and the OneSystem cloud delivery model open many interesting future opportunities for Exablox and I hope they will take full advantage of both: my first thoughts go to features like replication to Amazon S3 or sync&share capabilities through OneSystem… this is only my bet at the moment but If I was an early Exablox adopter I would ask for them!

Disclaimer: I was invited to this meeting by Gestalt IT and they paid for travel and accommodation, I have not been compensated for my time and am not obliged to blog. Furthermore, the content is not reviewed, approved or published by any other person than the Juku team.