Startup brings tier-1 performance to cloud storage

By Dave Simpson

– Panzura launched today with the introduction of the Application Cloud Controller (ACC), an application-aware device based on solid-state disk (SSD) drives that functions as a read/write cache to eliminate latency in cloud storage environments.

The SSD drives deliver performance that Panzura officials claim exceeds the performance of tier-1 storage arrays, but it's the application awareness that differentiates the ACC from other caching or acceleration devices, according to Randy Chou, Panzura's president and co-founder.

The ACC currently supports NFS/CIFS and Microsoft SharePoint, with support for Exchange, SQL Server and other Microsoft applications in the works.

"The ACC is not just a caching device or accelerator," says Chou. "It's a storage device with application awareness embedded in it. A SharePoint client, for example, talks directly to our storage device before the SharePoint Server. No changes are required on the applications."

Chou hopes that Panzura's Application Network Storage (ANS) architecture is the next evolution in the DAS to NAS to SAN evolution.

The company is targeting the high end of the Fortune 500, according to Chou, which is characterized by companies that start with internal clouds and then migrate to public clouds. The ACC can be used in either private (internal) or public (external, or hosted) clouds or in traditional non-cloud IT infrastructures. For security in public cloud storage implementations, Panzura offers optional hardware-based encryption.

Standard features include deep packet inspection (for analyzing applications' data usage patterns), global data deduplication, and acceleration via the onboard SSDs. Panzura declined to reveal its SSD supplier, but said that the ACC could be configured with either multi-level cell (MLC) or single-level cell (SLC) SSDs. Data is placed on the SSDs via a technique that Panzura calls automated application storage tiering (AAST). The ACC can be configured with multiple terabytes of capacity, depending on the capacity of the SSDs.

The ANS architecture consists of three primary components, or layers. The Application Acceleration layer provides packet inspection and communicates directly with the supported applications.

The Core Engine provides features such as resource management, data deduplication, cache management, authentication (which can be integrated with Microsoft's Active Directory) and encryption (without the need for key management by end users).

The Storage Virtualization layer matches application data with the appropriate storage tier, and communicates to internal SSD storage, a content delivery network (CDN) or private/public clouds via NFS, CIFS, iSCSI, RSYNC or HTTP/S.

Although pricing for the ACC starts at $25,000, Chou says that typical implementations are in the six-figure range.

Panzura officials declined to name customers, but Amazon, AT&T, Azure, Iron Mountain and Limelight Networks are among the company's public cloud storage partners.

Headquartered in San Jose, CA, Panzura (formerly Pixel8 Networks) was co-founded by Chou and John Taylor, both of whom were formerly with Aruba Networks. The advisory team includes former NetApp CTO Andy Watson and Peter Danzig, former vice president of technology at Akamai.

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This article was originally published on June 02, 2010