Amplidata Looks Beyond RAID for Large, Unstructured Data

By Kenneth Corbin

As businesses grapple with what seems an inexorable accumulation of unstructured data in the always-on environment of online applications, the costs of RAID storage deployments associated with infrastructure, power consumption and management can become a heavy weight on an enterprise IT budget.

And while RAID continues to be the favorite storage architecture for many businesses, object storage startup Amplidata is pitching an alternative for firms awash in petabyte-scale volumes of unstructured data.

"RAID disk storage continues to predominate enterprise IT deployments, yet with growing disk densities, RAID can no longer address the reliability requirements of modern storage infrastructures," said Tom Leyden, Amplidata's director of alliances and marketing. "Users have turned to managing multiple copies of files in order to address these shortcomings of RAID -- but [they] often pay a steep price in storage utilization and power consumption."

Founded in 2008 by a group of European tech entrepreneurs, Amplidata is headquartered in Lochristi, Belgium, near Ghent, with a U.S. office in Redwood City, Calif.

Amplidata's flagship offering is the AmpliStor appliance, which the company describes as an optimized object storage system geared for large file infrastructures at the petabyte level. Leyden explained that Amplidata positions itself as a tidy solution for applications, such as the media archives that broadcasters count on for instant retrieval or the cloud storage systems that support social gaming networks, which have a similar expectation of availability. Those applications fit under the broad category of large, unstructured media objects such as audio, video and image files that Amplidata targets as it seeks to stake out an alternative to conventional RAID deployments.

Amplidata boasts that its AmpliStor product can scale to hundreds of petabytes of storage at 50 percent to 70 percent less capacity than traditional solutions, a slimmer footprint that translates into savings in cost and power consumption.

The technology behind AmpliStor is comprised of high-density, low-power storage nodes paired with high-performance controller nodes, which run on industry-standard HTTP/REST protocols through a 10 GbE network interface.

"This allows the system to scale out throughput to meet any application requirements," Leyden explained. "The back-end storage pool is spread over as many storage nodes as is required to meet the application's capacity requirements, with the system supporting an essentially unlimited number of storage nodes."

Through what Amplidata calls its BitSpread technology, the AmpliStor appliance employs an alternative approach to writing data to disk that, according to Leyden, "enables massively better reliability than RAID on multi-terabyte drives." The BitSpread technology splits and encodes data objects into sub-blocks, which are then spread over the maximum number of disks within the system. To restore the original data object, the BitSpread system needs only a portion of those sub-blocks, providing for a high level of reliability in the event of a failure of multiple disks or storage nodes.

Amplidata operates under the presumption that unstructured data in the form of images, video and other rich media will be the driving force propelling the growth of big data over the coming decade, and that object storage is ideally suited to scale to maintain and access those volumes of information. The challenge, then, is to convince prospective customers that the traditional host-based file systems that have long anchored enterprises' storage architecture will be outmatched by the crush of big data.

"Object storage is a very new paradigm," Leyden said. "Organizations have put up with the limitations of RAID for file-based storage for decades. They're just beginning to learn there's a better way."

Amplidata sells to customers directly and is working to expand its network of channel partners and cultivate alliances with OEMs.

In the first quarter of this year, the company plans to bring higher-density storage modules, faster controllers and SSD-based data accelerators to market that will improve read performance. Additionally, Amplidata is planning upgrades for its data compression and encryption technology.

Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects for more than four years, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here

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This article was originally published on January 25, 2012