The data center on your desktop

Corporate desktops average single-digit CPU utilization and less than 20% storage utilization. Can this unused capacity be put to work for the data center?

Corporate desktops average single-digit CPU utilization and less than 20% storage utilization. Can this unused capacity be put to work for the data center? Revstor says "yes!"

I spoke to Russ Felker, the founder and CEO of RevStor to learn more about the product.

Average desktop PCs today come with disks ranging in size from 120 GB to 500. But unless you are editing video, producing presentations or crunching big data sets you probably use less than 50 GB. RevStor's SANware backup product puts this unused space to productive use.

Recycling in place Power! Cooling! Capacity! Data centers worldwide are bumping into infrastructure limits due to increasing server and storage density. Yet some estimate that 2/3rds of corporate computing and electrical power is used on the desktop. Why not offload the glass house data centers?

Revstor offers a product called SANware, a backup product that includes what they call a Distributed File System. DFS compresses, encrypts and splits files across desktops to ensure data security and minimizing impact on individual systems. Think of it as corporate BitTorrent.

Data availability You can select how many copies of each piece are stored, so desktops can be offline without compromising data access. As desktops go offline SANware ensures that your required number of copies is maintained. A system goal is not to maintain more than 1/3rd of any file on any single desktop.

SANware also includes a de-duplication feature like other disk2disk backup appliances to reduce traffic. If you've got multiple offices you can specify remote locations for true disaster tolerance.

Performance SANware is designed to be invisible to users. It doesn't reduce the desktop's available space - if you need to suddenly import a 100 GB video you can. SANware simply replicates from remaining copies to maintain your desired fault tolerance.

SANware only uses resources when the system is idle. It won't interfere with your fantasy baseball league and other important business functions. It is so light weight that it is usable on a 500 MHz Pentium 2.

Security All data has 256-bit encryption before it leaves the desktop. Even if someone swiped the desktop they'd have to find the invisible files on the disk, decrypt them and then find the other 2 desktops to get the complete file.

Management Once the agent is installed and the initial settings completed, the system is designed to run without further management intervention. DFS is fully distributed so any node or group of nodes can host the file system metadata. If any of the metadata nodes go offline another node will be promoted to replace it without human intervention.

Who should use this? Russ recommends that SANware makes the most sense for companies with 500-1000 Windows or Linux systems spread over 2-3 locations. You'll have plenty of capacity and the additional locations give added availability.

The Storage Bits take Revstor, along with companies like Seanodes and Cleversafe, is looking at how to use resources already in place for data storage. Most data doesn't need the performance of a million dollar storage array, but it does need security and availability.

SANware is a neat middle step between local dedicated backup systems and remote data storage like Mozy or S3. It uses storage and a fast LAN you already have to create a self-managing backup cluster infrastructure. At $2500 per TB it is an affordable choice for companies who can't add more raised floor space, power, cooling and maintenance contracts without busting their budgets.

Comments welcome, of course.