New breeds of clustered storage solutions are in the final design stages, with possible launch dates before the end of the year. Systems from EMC, IBM and others are part of an evolving cat-and-mouse game to see who will excel in the emerging cloud and utility computing environments.
Clustering technology also jives well with top vendors' renewed focus on the small business segment because it leverages the smaller, cheaper storage systems that are already in high demand.
Top IBM officials told InformationWeek that their strategy encompasses clustered modular storage systems based on technology from the recently acquired XIV Ltd. That company's Nextra system ties common hardware platforms into a high-performance grid, complete with virtualization and remote mirroring.
IBM is also experimenting with advanced optical modules that could offer file transfer rates as high as 160 Gbps. The company recently showed a prototype of the "Optocard," capable of 32 channels of 10 Gbps delivery up to 100 meters. Plans for a 24x transceiver could put total throughput into the 8 Tbps range.
Over at EMC, meanwhile, the talk has been about secretive projects with codenames like "Hulk" and "Maui," which have been described as clustered file systems, although executives here present them as a "global storage repository." However you couch it, the company makes no bones about the fact that they are aimed directly at Web 2.0 service companies and the kinds of cloud services lauded by Microsoft and Google.
While big guns like IBM and EMC look ready to carve up the market for themselves, smaller firms are out to spoil their fun. Isilon Systems recently launched a high-speed clustering system called the X-Series that provides 1.6 PB of capacity and 10 Gbps throughput in a single file/single volume architecture. The system features a series of nodes, each of which maintains its own capacity, storage server, CPU (Intel 5130s), memory and network access that provides instant connections to other nodes.
It's unlikely that clustered storage will fully replace the big-box storage systems that large enterprises employ today. But when it comes to matching the dynamic networking environments of the future, clusters appear to have the scalability and flexibility to do the job.