By Ann Silverthorn
—Netgear's release this week of Storage Central is the first commercial offering of Zetera's Z-SAN Storage-over-IP (SoIP) technology. While Storage Central is targeted at the consumer and SOHO markets, both Bell Microproducts and StorCase will introduce similar products for the small to medium-sized business (SMB) and small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) markets in the late November timeframe.
Bell Microproducts will introduce an SoIP storage product under the Hammer brand. The StorCase offering will be targeted at the audio and video markets.
Rather than making its own hardware, Zetera licenses its technology to storage and network equipment vendors.
Zetera's technology uses the standard IP transport, but does not rely on iSCSI or Fibre Channel protocols. Z-SAN eliminates the need for physical transport gateways and disk controllers, which can be costly and can serve as bottlenecks and single points of failure. Z-SAN virtualizes storage at the IP layer, disaggregates physical drives into multiple virtual partitions, and creates virtual drives that span multiple physical drives.
According to Ryan Malone, director of channel marketing at Zetera, instead of striping data across disk drives in a RAID controller, Z-SAN swipes data across disk drives through a switch. It can scale to hundreds of drives without being limited by the number of ports on a RAID controller or the number of expansion modules.
Z-SAN can theoretically scale up to 128 petabytes. It could scale this high with a multitude of the small Netgear boxes, but when Bell Micro and StorCase begin shipping theirs, an SMB customer would more likely buy 1U or 2U units that start at 4TB and purchase more units as storage needs expand, according to Malone.
Malone says that with Z-SAN, users can buy another array, plug it into the switch, and use the management software to assign the extra capacity. Users can carve out a partition, give it a name, and it will show up in the operating system as a local drive. The operating system thinks it's a local drive, but it's actually connected over the network. Users can also add new storage space to an existing drive without rebooting. The technology on the switch keeps track of where the disk drives are, their IP addresses, and virtualizes all of them as a single volume.
Netgear Storage Central costs $129 without drives.