ID7 buy takes Fusion-io deeper into software-defined storage

Server flash pioneer Fusion-io buys ID7 for its Linux SCSI stack storage expertise and will offer products for hyperscale storage later in 2013

Server flash pioneer Fusion-io has dived deeper into the storage software market with the acquisition of Cheshire-based Linux storage specialist ID7.

The move further into so-called software-defined storage will see US-based PCIe server flash supplier Fusion-io develop fully featured products that build shared storage from direct-attached storage on servers.

Future products that result from the union of Fusion-io and ID7 will target high-end storage users that use SAN systems from mainstream storage suppliers.

Systems built from server-attached storage on commodity hardware are currently the preserve of the world’s largest companies, such as Facebook, Google and Amazon.

These Hyperscale users do not use separate storage architectures, but instead build massive grids of servers with their attached storage and redundancy at the level of the entire server, rather than the server/storage components within.

Affordable high-end storage

It is this hyperscale model of compute/storage that Fusion-io aims to bring to new markets with the fruits of the ID7 acquisition, said CEO David Flynn: “There’s a continuum between traditional IT shops and the massive hyperscale users. We’re aiming between these to provide high-end storage functionality on commodity hardware.”

“We won’t aim at the highest end users. Facebook, Apple etc use the application database to manage things. But hosting and cloud providers, for example, are often forced to buy proprietary systems. Software-defined systems can offer them high-end systems without the high-end price.”

Fusion-io already collaborates with ID7 on its ION Data Accelerator storage software product. ID7 is an expert in SCST, a SCSI target subsystem for Linux operating systems that enables advanced storage functionality, including replication, thin provisioning, deduplication, high availability and automatic backup on any Linux server or appliance.

The acquisition will add these functions to future Fusion-io products sometime this year, said Flynn.

He added: “When you network flash, via Fibre Channel, Ethernet or Infiniband, the SCSI protocol is key to handling commands on and off the network and the ID7 team are experts in the SCST Linux component that can allow it to be used as the operating system for a SAN.”

Fusion-io said it will continue to maintain the open source version of SCST and contribute to the open source distribution.

External software controls commodity hardware

So-called software-defined storage has arisen as a buzzword in the past year to describe storage systems built from commodity hardware and linked together by storage software, in contrast with hardware storage products that have controller software built in.

Storage software products have existed for some time, for example from the likes of DataCore, Nexenta and LeftHand Networks (now part of HP). More recently this functionality has been available in virtual storage appliances that run on a virtual machine hypervisor, including from mainstream vendors such as EMC’s VNX and Celerra VSAs and NetApp’s Data ONTAP Edge product.

Also, VMware has advanced plans to offer storage software functionality via the VMware Virtual SAN that will allow users to build storage networks from heterogenous media that can potentially scale to petabytes.

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