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Cleversafe launches dispersed-storage products

Soon on sale: hardware and software from a start-up with a new approach for protecting data by dispersing it across several servers--and maybe even continents.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read

Cleversafe, a start-up with a new way to protect data by dispersing it across many storage devices, is making the move from prototype to product.

The company's basic idea is to break up data into little bits that are stored on multiple devices, overlapping the bits so it doesn't matter if some devices fail. The approach, which is embodied in open-source software anyone can try, can be used to spread data across multiple storage devices in a rack or multiple data centers across the globe.

And now potential customers can start pricing out equipment to see if it's worth buying, doing on their own, or skipping over. A typical configuration of equipment that includes 24 terabytes of raw storage capacity will cost $127,000 when it goes on sale on March 31.

And that's before Cleversafe heads to the cloud. Later this year, the company hopes to have partnerships with service providers who can offer customers the technology as a dedicated offering, said Chief Executive Chris Gladwin. And in 2009, service providers might well link up their storage pools in "peering" relationships, he added.

The information dispersal technique could be a major new force to be reckoned with in the data-storage business, said Illuminata analyst John Webster. He called it "the most disruptive technology since the emergence of RAID," or redundant array of inexpensive disks, which can save data on multiple disks to guard against failure.

However, Webster added, EMC and other storage heavyweights are working on the technology, too. And of course, open-source software famously lowers barrier to entry.

Gladwin believes there are advantages to buying technology from Cleversafe, though. For one thing, it handles the engineering work, including a customized version of Linux. It also provides support and uses proprietary software to manage its storage note pools.

How much do you get for your $127,000?
The amount of usable capacity you get from that eight-slice setup depends on how redundantly you store the data across the collection of slices.

In one common configuration Cleversafe often describes, 24 terabytes of raw capacity becomes 15 terabytes of usable capacity. In other words, if you need a certain amount of capacity, multiply that by 1.6 to find out how much raw capacity to buy.

The $127,000 price includes all three components Cleversafe sells: eight $11,300 CS Slicestors with 3TB of capacity used to save the data; two $12,300 CS Accessers used to encode the data, disperse it across slices, and retrieve the data; and two CS Managers to monitor the other components' performance.