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Coho Data Touts Cloud-like, Scale-out Storage

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

Coho Data unveiled its DataStream architecture today, thrusting an intriguing new approach onto a rapidly evolving landscape where buzzy phrases like cloud-based storage, software-defined storage, and scale-out storage are serially attached to the industry lexicon. Coho's product includes a software-defined network (SDN) switch into which its storage arrays are connected, moving storage logic up to the networking layer and an OpenFlow control plane.

Coho Data co-founder and CTO Andy Warfield claims legacy storage has followed a washing machine or appliance approach, or even  tupperware-like storage mindset; sounds like Mr. Warfield has been crafting his thesis in a kitchen, but to each his own.

Translation: typical solutions scale up but not necessarily out. That is, many modern storage solutions let IT managers add capacity as data needs grow, but often at the expense of performance, thanks to the latency introduced by how storage management logic is distributed, according to Howard Marks, founder and chief scientist at DeepStorage. For example, in some systems, every storage node needs to track where all data resides and redirect requests to the proper destination.

Performance is at even greater peril when using faster, more expensive flash technology, which Warfield says will quickly saturate a 10 Gbps Ethernet connection.

The Coho Data technology includes a 52-port Arista SDN switch, supporting at least six chassis, each housing two micro arrays. The controller is an Intel Xeon E5-2620, the PCIe flash is Intel's 910 800 GB SSD. Each chassis provides 39 TB of hybrid storage.

Coho Data's published performance targets: "Up to 180K IOPS in every 2U Coho DataStream appliance that can be scaled linearly for 2x the price/performance of all-flash arrays."

Offering a complete solution with licensed switch technology is part of Coho Data's differentiation, says Tiffany To, Coho's VP of product management and marketing. OpenFlow APIs are still maturing, she says, and the company wanted a way to validate initial implementation. But To adds that Coho Data is working with several switch manufacturers, most notably Cisco, and plans to have other options available in Q2 2014.

By choosing commodity hardware components, Coho gives administrators exactly what they need now, with the ability to evolve with technology advances, Warfield says.

Howard Marks points out that while companies like Simplivity and Nutanix converge storage and compute, leaving the networking part out, Coho Data pulls together networking and storage, leaving the compute part out.

As with most hardware infrastructure, much of the magic is in the software, and here Coho Data presents NFS as if it were a single IP address and a single name space for the entire storage cluster, says To.

Coho Data's scheme looks very much like an Amazon S3 approach, according to Warfield; that is, it appears as a scalable object store. "Instead of building a layered stack," he says, "we've decoupled the management of the storage hardware from how it's presented." To the application, then, the storage is truly just a service, providing the necessary reliability and performance characteristics that application might need.

For now, Coho Data has focused on NFS, which Warfield and To say is the biggest opportunity. Coho's DataStream architecture will soon support other workloads, like Hadoop.

Coho Data will cost approximately $2.50 per Gigabyte, without deduplication or compression (capabilities To says the company will add early next year). This price, To says, is similar to Amazon's provisioned pricing, with similar IOPs guarantees, over a four-year period. "We wanted to build the same type of economics," she says. The basic entry price for a Coho Data solutions is $130,000, and will available later this year.

Warfield, who was part of The University of Cambridge team that wrote the Xen VM monitor (used for Amazon's EC2), says Coho Data is named after the Pacific Northwest salmon -- undoubtedly prepared a time or two in his Vancouver kitchen.

The company was founded in 2011 and is backed by Andreesen Horowitz.


Fritz Nelson is Editor-in-Chief of Tom's IT Pro and Tom's Hardware. Previously he was the editorial director of the InformationWeek Business Technology Network, which included 12 editorial brands, like InformationWeek, Dark Reading, and Dr. Dobb's. As an industry expert with more than 20 years of editorial experience, Fritz writes about myriad technology issues -- from software to mobile to cloud to social business -- and meets regularly with CIOs and business leaders of the major technology companies. Earlier in his career, Fritz worked with Lockheed Martin's Computing Standards group, a team that tested and evaluated technology and whose objective was to set corporate computing and networking standards.

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