Storage firm boosts its open-source credentials

Storage specialist Coraid added two items last week to its open-source-based storage résumé that give users greater flexibility and a more robust nonproprietary mass storage option.

The additions relate to the company’s EtherDrive storage appliances, which use an open-source network protocol to connect servers to shared disks. Coraid has numerous government customers, including NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

In one of the recent moves, Coraid announced that EtherDrive storage appliances now work with EtherBoot, which is popular open-source software that lets users boot diskless Linux servers from software loaded on remote disks and accessed across a network.

Network booting helps ease software administration tasks because multiple diskless servers can all boot using one set of shared disks.

In the other move, the company publicly published software that enables Linux users to create one file containing a dataset that, for protection purposes, had been distributed across multiple disk drives as part of a Redundant Array of Independent Disks storage system.

RAID vendors typically make proprietary software for handling data storage and reassembly. By publishing its RAID recovery tool, called SRCAT, Coraid lets system administrators use any available Linux system to retrieve data from an EtherDrive disk, even after someone physically moves the disk from one system to another. SRCAT is available for free at SourceForge.net, a Web site for open-source users.

Coraid first started shipping its EtherDrive products more than two years ago. The appliances use the ATA-over-Ethernet (AoE) protocol to transport standard Advanced Technology Attachment disk commands via Ethernet networks, enabling administrators to create storage systems that multiple servers can share.

Coraid developed AoE but made the protocol public. It is now part of the standard Linux operating system. Coraid officials say that because AoE eliminates the processing overhead of Ethernet’s TCP/IP, it provides a high-performance, low-cost alternative to traditional storage network technologies such as Fibre Channel and Internet SCSI.

“AoE is as proprietary as Linux, which means that it isn’t,” said Jim Kemp, Coraid’s chief executive officer. “We expect other vendors to have products in this area eventually.”

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