What lies behind the idea of “virtual storage repositories”?
Coates: The need for information that must be made available to authorized users and applications anywhere, at any time, regardless of the physical location of the storage itself. Initially, this was a need driven by consumer applications that, for example, required a song produced in Hollywood to be made available to users in Europe. However, the increasingly global nature of the enterprise now demands that the same capabilities be offered in enterprise storage.
How is this concept put into practice?
Coates: Originally, Scale Eight built four massive data centers around the world that use commodity hardware and distributed storage software to provide hundreds of terabytes of storage that appear to users as local storage networks. This network serves customers on four continents, including The Microsoft Network, Viacom, and Fujitsu. The portable nature of the distributed storage software is now being applied to network-attached storage (NAS) systems which are deployed behind firewalls at customer data centers.
One advantage of this technology is that it lowers peaks in corporate networks. What other advantages can you name – particularly from a technological point of view?
Coates: The nature of our software allows customers to ride the curve in commodity hardware, which essentially translates into constantly improved performance at decreasing costs. In addition, it provides a global file system, which provides companies with multiple office locations with a unified file system structure. The resulting benefits include improved workflow, decreased management cost, and the ability to add capacity to a file system without taking it offline.
Can this technology be used in companies of all sizes or are there limits?
Coates: It can be used by any company which needs to store terabytes of files and make them available to users around the world. That could range from a multinational corporation with offices around the world to a startup that needs to reach consumers in many countries. Typically, medium- to large-scale enterprises have this need.
What have been your customers’ experiences vis-à-vis cost savings?
Coates: Some of our customers have been able to reduce their storage costs by 80 percent by implementing Scale Eight’s technology. For instance, Octavo, a digital publishing company in the U.S., implemented our technology at 20 percent of the cost of a US$500,000 storage area network (SAN). Other customers, including Viacom, use Scale Eight technology to avoid duplicating storage infrastructures between their New York and Paris offices, with similar cost savings.
During your research you developed “scalable clustering technology”. Could you briefly explain this technology and the influence it has had on the portfolio of Scale Eight?
Coates: Scalable clustering technology refers to the set of base distributed systems which are required to take advantage of commodity „rack and stack“ hardware. It mainly consists of careful implementations of sophisticated, but well understood algorithms from the parallel system research community. We originally integrated this technology in our Global Storage Service, as well as our internal corporate storage. It is also the technology basis for our NAS systems.
In your opinion, what are the major problems facing corporate software in the future?
Coates: The trend towards sophisticated software running on commodity hardware will translate into problems for any vendor – hardware or software – continuing to focus on proprietary systems. Customers will soon realize that they no longer have to pay a 200 percent markup on disk drives and proprietary hardware. They know what true innovators know: Software has no bounds. If you can think of it, you can do it in software.
What is your involvement in these projects?
Coates: Our R&D staff is working constantly to develop distributed systems software that drives the highest performance, at the lowest cost, from commodity hardware. Initially, this will provide high-capacity NAS systems, and ultimately enable Scale Eight to offer NAS systems with industry-leading throughput.
What is your personal motto?
Coates: „Pragmatism is a lost art.“