Cereva Targets Internet Storage

By Lisa Coleman

Marlborough, MA-based startup Cereva Networks came out of stealth mode last month when it announced an Internet storage system capable of scaling to almost one petabyte (PB), accelerating content delivery, and simplifying infrastructures for Internet data centers (IDCs) and service providers, the company claims.

Launched in April 1998, Cereva has since received $106 million in funding. Its yet-to-be named product will have capacities scaling up to 230TB in its first generation, with bandwidth of 128Gbps scalable to 512Gbps. Initial customer shipments are expected in the next quarter. The second-generation product, scheduled for release in the second half of this year, will have capacities just under 1PB.

"To date, there is no petabyte-size single-instance storage device," says Steve Duplessie, senior analyst for The Enterprise Storage Group, "yet there?s a small but growing portion of the market that has gigantic storage requirements."

The Cereva storage system was built specifically to meet the challenges of IDCs, who have a need for massive scalability and fast content delivery to support thousands of servers that are the front-ends of large storage resources like Internet search engines.

The Cereva storage system uses Seagate and IBM disk drives with Cereva-built proprietary arrays. To achieve massive scalability and speed, the system uses a non-blocking crossbar switch fabric, which acts as a "network within," claims Mary Murphy, vice president of marketing and business development. Another system component is a fault-tolerant, massive parallel processing I/O engine running proprietary software.

The storage system operates as a large pool, where storage is extracted and presented to attached host systems. "What we present to the attached host looks like a locally attached SCSI disk drive of a potentially very, very large capacity," explains Peter Gibbs, Cereva's vice president of technology alliances. The attached host does not see any disk administration, disk arrays, or RAID groups; rather, it sees a storage volume as if it is on a SCSI drive. "We have a huge amount of flexibility in how we present, manage, configure, and reconfigure storage for a large number of attached users," says Gibbs. "That flexibility allows us to be very transparent because we're not putting any unique or proprietary code on the host side." In addition, the system is designed for standard 19-inch racks, and can be upgraded or serviced without un-installing the system.

NaviSite, a supplier of outsourced web hosting and application services, plans to beta test the storage system. Peter Kirwan, NaviSite's chief technology officer, believes the Cereva system will change the economics of outsourcing and managing storage. The storage system will allow service providers to pool storage among different customers and essentially cut down on over-provisioning storage resources, says Kirwan. "You might have ten customers that all need 1TB each, but they might not all need that storage right now. They?re going to use it little by little. With Cereva, you can pool all that and not give it to them until they need it. It makes it easier to manage storage, and it makes it more economical."

This article was originally published on January 24, 2001