Cleversafe rolling smoothly toward second quarter launch

Cleversafe's "storage Internet," a dispersed storage system where data is sliced to bits and placed on many servers around the globe, is rolling along toward a second quarter launch.

Chris Gladwin playing poker, from the Cleversafe Web site, and CrainÂ’s Chicago Business
Cleversafe's "storage Internet," a dispersed storage system where data is sliced to bits and placed on many servers around the globe, is rolling along toward a second quarter launch.

Chairman and CTO CEO Chris Gladwin told ZDNet last week "general availability" is scheduled for March 31, but also emphasized the slow, steady build necessary to make the system happen. (Gladwin is shown playing poker at Crain's Chicago Business.)

"It's not like graphic software, where you announce and ship. Building a dispersed storage network is like building an Internet. A sequence of partners must provide service. We've been testing for years."

Partly because its development is like watching paint dry, releases like the one Cleversafe put out February 19, announcing delivery of its first commercial products, aren't getting a lot of play.

Instead, Gladwin and his team are "focusing on getting initial customers to have a positive experience." A few large clients, storing 1-5 Petabytes of data each, should drive word of mouth and a slow build of profitable sales.

Gladwin likened the 19th's announcement to "the equivalent of Cisco and Juniper's product." As with those companies Cleversafe is delivering dispersed data routers which provide management and features for the larger data service offering.

"We've been developing an open source protocol for dispersed storage for years. Other companies will integrate it and sell it through re-sellers," he said of the company's business model.

"You can buy these products and build your own dispersed storage network. You can hire someone to build a private dispersed storage network. A lot of people had these early with the Internet. There are hosting companies who are our partners and will do  that. The third option is you can buy dispersed storage as a service.

"It's all the same to us, because we're the equipment provider. In each case we sell a family of appliances. One is a slice store Slicestor which stores slices, and an accessor which is a gateway that lets you reach the dispersed network. We're supporting iSCSI today and a block interface. It looks to you like a hard drive. The third product is a manager box you can run the network on."

Where is the open source story?  "The core protocol is open source. The ability to build a basic dispersed network is part of the open source release. There are additional features, like management, that are only in the commercial product."

And what does the commercial product look like?

"If you opened a slice store Slicestor you would see Barracuda 700 Gig drives and a low end server CPU. Part of why we're selling as appliances is it's a tuned configuration and it makes support and delivery easier. It's the box our developers have used, it's the box everyone is trained on."

So in order to deliver a service, Cleversafe hardware has to be in extensive use in the field, so you have something to point the Cleversafe software to. 

While the company sells hardware, it does not give itself an exclusive. While the basic client software is open source, the company's real business is its commercial management software, which Gladwin added continues to advance.

"When we previously spoke with you we had a fixed grid width. Now it's fully configurable," he said. 

"We've added the iSCSI interface, so the network appears as a drive, and every application can use it out of the box. We've also made it 500 times faster. So now it runs at the speed of a hard drive."

The storage Internet is coming, in other words. In business, as in poker, Gladwin doesn't bluff. It's just not made for TV.