OnApp cloud storage aims to help hosts take on Amazon

The company's storage software lets web hosts turn commodity servers and storage into a distributed cloud-accessible SAN, giving them another technology to use in trying not to be squeezed by Amazon
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

OnApp is getting set to release a product to help web hosts close the cloud storage gap with Amazon Web Services.

The OnApp Storage software, introduced on Tuesday, is a decentralised system made up of the local storage on the web host's commodity servers. This cuts out the need for hosting businesses to buy dedicated hardware appliances from companies such as NetApp, EMC and HP in order to provide cloud storage, according to OnApp.

"We are helping hosting companies compete against Amazon," OnApp's chief executive Ditlev Bredahl told ZDNet UK. "Why does Amazon win again and again and again? They win because of the scale they have."

Netflix's cloud architect has said Amazon Web Service's ubiquity has made it 'the iPhone of the cloud', with other companies banding together around other software systems to try and take it on.

OnApp Storage, which will compete with software-based systems from the likes of Nexenta and Datacore, makes each physical drive a storage node with its own integrated I/O controller. This cuts in-cloud bandwidth costs by letting the endpoint that is accessing the data use the distributed I/O control points to create a point-to-point connection between itself and where the data is stored.

The software also has deduplication and lets administrators choose the amount of redundancy they want for each piece of data. For example, one file could be replicated once to every physical drive within the cloud SAN, for maximum redundancy.

Initially, the software works with OnApp Cloud, the company's cloud platform that lets web hosts offer virtualised services to their customers. In the future, OnApp plans to make it work across other general hypervisor-based clouds and, after that, to work on custom hardware as well, according to Julian Chesterfield, OnApp's storage and virtualisation architect.

Cloud of clouds

OnApp hopes the product will be used by more and more web hosts — companies such as Peer1 and KPN base their clouds on its technology — so that eventually they can band their services together into a cloud of clouds, all backed by the same software.

Why does Amazon win again and again and again? They win because of the scale they have.
– Ditlev Bredahl, OnApp

This, Bredahl says, should give them the "scale, geographical reach and product range" to let them compete with "the dark lord out there of Amazon".

Cloud computing is made up of two opposed systems — single vendor solutions like Amazon Web Services and coalition-developed software systems like OpenStack. OnApp is attempting to chart a third way, by exerting central control over a software system but letting individual companies implement it and share information with one another.

"When [the cloud] consolidates down the line the deployment engine — deploying servers, keeping track of failover and live migrations, and all the basic cloud provisioning stuff, that will all be commoditised," Bredahl said. "I think whether it's OnApp or Cloud.com or whatever, it's all about the ecosystem."

OnApp Storage will be launched in the second half of 2012.

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