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Gridstore releases clustered NAS platform for SMBs, MSPs

Startup Gridstore goes public with its NASg beta program for managed service providers (MSPs) looking to set up clustered NAS for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), based on Intel storage blocks running Windows.

Gridstore is coming out of stealth today with a clustered NAS platform for small and medium-sized companies (SMBs) it intends to sell through managed service providers (MSPs).

Gridstore, a privately funded startup with headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., and engineers in Dublin, Ireland, is beginning its public beta this month after more than a year of testing the product in a closed beta program with channel partners in Ireland.

CEO Kelly Murphy says the goal of NASg is to eliminate NAS sprawl, especially at smaller companies running Windows that can't afford an enterprise NAS system from NetApp Inc., EMC Corp. or other vendors. The NASg grids are powered Storage Blocks with Intel Atom chipsets and embedded Windows XP. A Gridstore sensor on each box detects other blocks, plus the client PCs and servers connected to the grid. A client can also be a Windows 2008 Storage Server-based NAS server.

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Each Storage Block has 1 TB or 2 TB of storage, adds 1 GBps of network bandwidth to the grid, and costs about $300 or $400, depending on the configuration.

Kelly says organizations can add a node non-disruptively to scale the NAS or replace a failed node. An MSP can manage the cluster remotely through a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in. If an MSP's customer has a spare node on premise, the MSP doesn't have to visit the customer site to bring it online.

"We shifted the storage processing off the clients and onto the nodes," Murphy said. "A node appears as a standard CIFS network share, and can be broken into multiple volumes with a global namespace."

He said when a node goes offline, "a red light goes on in the console at the MSP facility, and they can drill into the customer site and bring a hot spare online. MSPs like to manage a customer site through remote software, but hardware is another matter. They have to go out to the site and bring hardware, and it's at least a half-day process."

The ability to manage remotely is a big selling point for MSPs, according to Taneja Group analyst Arun Taneja. "MSPs can manage from a remote console," Taneja said. "If a NAS box dies, they don't have to send Joe over and do something on premise. They tell the customer to connect a spare node to Ethernet."

Taneja says what will likely prevent Gridstore from making it as an enterprise play is that it requires agents on each client connected to the grid. That can be cumbersome for large organizations, which are used to having CIFS or NFS clients built into all the devices protected by NAS. Smaller companies will be more willing to use agents because their VARs or MSPs will set it up for them, Taneja added.

"Large enterprises won't let you do that [install agents]. They're agent-phobic, but midsize and small shops don't have the same taboo against agents," he said. "It's not a deal-killer for smaller players."

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