OnStor upgrades clustered NAS gateway

Tripling of processing cores boosts speed

Network-attached storage vendor OnStor is releasing Cougar, the third generation of its clustered NAS gateway that connects to storage devices from multiple vendors and uses a VMware-like virtualization technology that improves flexibility.

The OnStor Cougar 6000 series, announced Tuesday, is the successor to OnStor's Bobcat product line and triples the number of processing cores in each box from six to 18. Speed in terms of IOPS (I/O Operations Per Second) goes from 36,104 to 101,000 for the Cougar 6720, the faster of the two new releases, according to OnStor. The slower Cougar 6520 offers 84,968 IOPS. Both can scale up to 4 petabytes of storage, compared with 1 petabyte for OnStor's previous line.

OnStor competes against NetApp and differentiates itself in a couple ways, notes analyst George Crump of Storage Switzerland. Storage from pretty much any other vendor can attach to OnStor's hardware, he says. Secondly, OnStor virtualization lets multiple NAS appliances attach to the same storage.

"They're one of the few that really have successfully pulled off the NAS gateway idea," Crump says. "It's basically a box to which you can attach anybody's storage to be the underlying storage."

Whereas NetApp offers a wide range of products for enterprises and small businesses, OnStor is focusing on high-end customers with products costing a minimum of US$50,000, says marketing vice president Narayan Venkat. Cougar 6520 pricing is listed at $125,000, and the 6720 is priced at $300,000.

"This puts us in direct competition with NetApp in the high end, the NetApp 6000 series, or let's say BlueArc," Venkat says.

"Prior to Cougar the way we were competing with larger companies was using a scale-out approach, you put four nodes in a cluster.Now, since each box can scale up pretty high ... we're able to compete with two nodes in a cluster."

Cougar's hardware, which uses Broadcom processors, features a virtualization technology that's conceptually similar to VMware's, letting customers take a physical NAS head and convert it into multiple virtual instances, Venkat says. Similar to VMware's VMotion technology, OnStor lets customers drag and drop virtual servers from one head to another without impacting users.

"It's virtualization targeted at the NAS and unstructured data space," Venkat says.

OnStor has more than 400 customers, with target markets including Internet companies, software development houses and long-term archiving needs.

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