Storage firm boosts its open-source credentials

Storage specialist Coraid added two items last week to its open source-based storage resume that are designed to give users greater flexibility and a more robust non-proprietary 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, or start up, 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 allows Linux users to rebuild into one file a data set that for protection purposes was distributed across multiple disk drives as part of a redundant array of independent disks (RAID) storage system.

RAID vendors typically keep private, or proprietary, their software that handles data storage and reassembly. By making public its RAID recovery tool, called SRCAT, Coraid lets system administrators use any available Linux system to retrieve data from an EtherDrive disk, even after the disk has been physically moved from one system to another. SRCAT is available for free download at the open source website SourceForge.net.

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 (ATA) disk commands over Ethernet networks, allowing administrators to create storage systems that can be shared by multiple servers.

Coraid developed AoE, but made the protocol public and 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 like Fibre Channel and iSCSI.

'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.'

About the Author

John Zyskowski is a senior editor of Federal Computer Week. Follow him on Twitter: @ZyskowskiWriter.

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