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XenData CX-10 supports hybrid cloud storage for large files

A new hybrid cloud storage appliance, due to ship in September, will store 10 TB locally and offload infrequently accessed files to Microsoft Azure Blob storage.

XenData next month plans to release a new hybrid cloud storage appliance designed to keep 10 TB of frequently accessed application data on premises and tier colder files to Microsoft Azure Blob storage.

The Walnut Creek, Calif., vendor's CX-10 appliance will target organizations that need to manage a significant amount of unstructured data, such as video, medical images, and other large files from scientific and engineering applications. Performance is optimized for files at least 1 MB in size, according to Phil Storey, XenData's CEO and co-founder.

The CX-10 manages data through a highly scalable file system that spans the primary storage tier of two mirrored 10 TB hard disk drives and an unlimited secondary tier of Microsoft Azure Hot or Cool Blob storage. The user sees the file system as a logical drive letter that can be accessed locally or via SMB or FTP. The XenData Cloud File Gateway, which runs on Windows 10, does the translation to enable file transfer to object-based cloud storage.

The XenData Cloud File Gateway is based on software the vendor developed for its on-premises LTO tape storage systems that manage data across tiers of disk, nearline LTO cartridges in an LTO library and offline cartridges exported from the library. XenData claims its customer base includes government agencies, large corporations, TV stations and media production companies in more than 90 countries.

"We've certainly got customers with tens of petabytes on LTO libraries, and we think it's just as scalable in the cloud," Storey said. "Over the years, we've really made this product to scale."

The LTO product's XenData6 Server software is available only with the hardware. But CX-10 customers will have the option to purchase the appliance bundled with the XenData Cloud File Gateway or buy the software separately, through a subscription model, for installation on the hardware of their choice.

Supports 2 billion files

Storey said the "do-it-yourselfers" would be able to manage up to 256 TB of storage locally, rather than the 10 TB limit with the CX-10 appliance. The gateway supports up to 2 billion files within the hybrid file system, whether installed on generic hardware or bundled with the CX-10 appliance.

XenData envisions project-based use cases, where customers keep a project folder on local disk and offload it to the cloud once the work is done. The XenData system first writes all files to disk. Administrator-set storage policies then determine which files stay local, go to the cloud or both, and how long the files are retained in various locations.

"It's got huge granularity," Storey said. "You could set up a policy that says any .temp file is never going to go to the cloud, and all of the content in this particular folder except .mov [files] are going to be stored locally and in the cloud."

Administrators can schedule when the system uploads files to the cloud to conserve internet bandwidth during busy times of day. To boost performance, the XenData software breaks up large files into chunks and sends them via HTTPS in parallel to minimize latency, Storey said. The system calculates checksums for each data block transferred to Azure to ensure error-free transmission.

XenData CX-10 hybrid cloud storage appliance
The XenData CX-10's scalable file system spans the physical appliance and Microsoft Azure cloud storage.

Support for partial file restore

The XenData system keeps a stub file on disk for all content transferred to the cloud, so users can see file names as if the data is still on premises.

The XenData system keeps a stub file on disk for all content transferred to the cloud, so users can see file names as if the data is still on premises. The system supports partial file restores, a feature that could be especially helpful for video customers who want to create highlight clips or movie trailers without having to download the full file from the cloud, Storey said.

The XenData system relies on Secure Sockets Layer to encrypt data during file transfer to the cloud. Storey recommended customers use Azure Storage Service Encryption for Data at Rest to protect the data in the cloud.

The 1U CX-10 rackmount appliance ships with two 10 TB enterprise SATA HDDs for local storage and a 340 GB M.2 solid-state drive to speed the boot process. The appliance has two rear-mounted USB 3.0 ports and two front-mounted USB 2.0 ports to enable users to transfer data from USB drives. The base model ships with two Gigabit Ethernet network ports, and upgrade options are available for 10 Gigabit Ethernet. The system has certified integration options for various media applications, including many asset management systems.

The starting list price for the new CX-10 appliance will be $6,950, inclusive of a one-year subscription for the XenData Cloud File Gateway software and on-site support. After the first year, the annual software fee is $1,500.

Future product plans

Future CX-10 capabilities will include the ability to synchronize appliances across different locations for organizations that are geographically dispersed, according to Storey.

XenData also plans to offer a managed Azure service, where it sets up everything for the customer and bills a monthly usage fee, Storey said. The Managed Azure Account subscription will combine the Microsoft Azure Blob storage subscription, the XenData Cloud File Gateway subscription and premium technical support.

Storey said he expects the CX-10's competition to include Microsoft Azure StorSimple, Nasuni and Panzura. But he said StorSimple is designed for smaller-scale use cases, and Nasuni and Panzura are more expensive.

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