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Infinite io clusters its network storage controller

The Infinite io network storage controller 'bump on the wire' proxy scans storage to capture metadata in flight and speed movement of inactive files to the cloud.

Network virtualization startup Infinite io Inc. is testing a refreshed network storage controller that serves as a broker between local file storage and the cloud.

The Austin, Texas, vendor's 2U device sits in front of a NAS device. The appliance, based on the Infinite io network storage controller (NSC) technology, is slated for general availability in June.

It is based on standard x86 code and off-the-shelf packaging. Infinite io CEO Mark Cree said the network-based device serves file metadata from flash memory, and it eliminates the need for a file system or cloud gateway. It archives inactive data to back-end cloud storage via user-defined policies.

"We are just a bump on the wire," Cree said. "We give you a way to transparently migrate data to a private cloud, with no workflow changes. Since we are sitting in-band, we make both your private cloud and your installed storage faster."

Clients and servers "think they're talking to storage, but they're actually talking to us," Cree said.

Cracking packets, identifying metadata

Infinite io's NSC is a transparent control plane that proxies all connections between servers and storage. File metadata is captured in flight and indexed using deep packet inspection technology.

We give you a way to transparently migrate data to a private cloud, with no workflow changes.
Mark CreeCEO, Infinite io

Data is moved continuously to cloud storage as it becomes inactive. If a file needs to be retrieved from the cloud, Infinite io feeds metadata to the client and invisibly streams the remaining file data from object storage to local NFS or SMB.

Network software intelligence examines access patterns and recommends which files to move to the cloud. Sitting on the wire allows Infinite io to encrypt payloads locally before they are sent to storage.

"For most workloads, 80% or more of file traffic tends to be for metadata. Keeping the metadata local on our box means you rarely have to bring stuff back from the cloud," Cree said.

Infinite io appears to be following a similar path as StorSpeed, Cree's previous file-caching startup. It was later renamed CacheIQ and acquired in 2012 by NetApp.

Jay Rolette, vice president of engineering, is the former chief technologist at Hewlett-Packard TippingPoint, which TrendMicro acquired when HP split into two companies in 2015. Dave Sommers, vice president of operations, is a former VP of engineering at Adaptec, which is now part of Microsemi.

Jeff Kato, senior storage analyst at Taneja Group Inc. in Hopkinton, Mass., said the Infinite io network storage controller should appeal to companies reluctant to move legacy files to the cloud.

"They're trying to make sure their product [appeals to] the risk-averse," Kato said. "They aren't manipulating the data path. They have a lot of partners, especially S3 object partners. Their box can help you modernize a legacy filer and keep it around a little while longer. It's going to be more responsive to applications, simply because it's accelerating just the metadata portion."

Three-node cluster requirement added

The initial NSC from Infinite io came as a fail-to-wire option in which bonded ports can consolidate as a single wire for fault tolerance. The latest model requires a three-node minimum cluster for failover. Each controller accommodates 16 solid-state drives and 5 TB of flash.

The 2U appliance will be available with eight or 16 ports. The new Infinite io devices may be stacked and interconnected through dual 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches.

"The first product didn't let them scale. Clustering makes them ready for prime time," Kato said.

A three-node cluster of NSC-110 units from Infinite io
A three-node cluster of NSC-110 units from Infinite io.

Infinite io's Cree said the NSC hardware will be available in several flavors in June. A single NSC-110 will cost approximately $110,000. A three-node cluster with embedded switching and cloud connectivity will list for about $335,000. Enterprises may elect to purchase three nodes only for metadata acceleration for about $245,000.

Most major storage vendors are running Infinite io's upgraded network storage controller in proofs of concept, Cree said. The vendor is planning a software-only version with server partners, as well as the option to lease its infrastructure as a service.

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