StorageTek has launched its Centera-killer. IntelliStore is content-based disk and tape storage for both Windows and Unix.

The software runs on a cut-down Linux kernel on dual Xeon nodes in a meshed network. The content-addressable store (CAS) makes the system more efficient than standard CIFS and NFS access, but supports all three.

The target is a growing amount of fixed-content data increasingly needed for compliance and regulatory purposes. This data is stored in an object-based filestore using content-addressed storage with hash algorithm technology. According to Laurence James, StorageTek's UK ILM Solutions Business Manager, IntelliStore uses the NIST-developed SHA 256 algorithm rather than the MD5 algorithm used by Centera. MD5 was shown to be flawed by researchers earlier this year.

There is a single global namespace and users don't have to be involved in whether data is stored on disk or tape media. It is first loaded onto disk, being converted into a hashed form along with meta data desribing it and its characteristics. The meta data is used by the IntelliStore policy-based software to decide where to locate the data and when, if relevant, to move it to tape. Once on tape it can be migrated back to disk if its access pattern or other status measures change.

James says this is the first intelligent combined disk and tape archive and brings information lifecycle management (ILM) to fixed content data. IntelliStore can scale performance and capacity separately: "There is hyper-threading in each Xeon so we have redundancy in each node. In the future we'll go to quads. Then one node pair will give you eight Xeons. And we can have up to 12 node pairs."

Up to 7 FLX600 disk array trays are shown in an IntelliStore illustration. The FLX600, the only supported drive array for now, uses SATA disks. Intellistore is thus a two-tiered archive with fast (relatively) disk on the one hand and slower but high-capacity tape on the other. James indicated that the FLX600 would have both Fibre Channel and Serial-attached SCSI disks added to it early next year. This would provide a potential four-tier archive.

The supported tape formats include StorageTek's 9840 and 9940 in the StreamLine library. Its VolSafe product provides a write-once, ready many (WORM) capability. Vaulting of tapes off-site is readily supported for an extra layer of protection. James says IntelliStore is ready to store hundreds of millions of objects now and can scale to store billions of objects in the future.

James says IntelliStore is self-healing and self-protecting. A stored object can have its hash re-created and if it differs from the original hash then the data has changed. It can be regenerated from the hash.

There are search and indexing facilities to help with compliance requests and legal discovery requirements. IntelliStore can have newer disk technology added to it with existing objects being migrated to the new disks. Application-aware software, such as AXS-One's Compliance Platform, acts as a software layer selecting data to be archived in IntelliStore.

StorageTek has EMC's Centera firmly in its sights, saying IntelliStore is 10 to 15 times faster and has up to 15 times the managed file capacity of its rival.

IntelliStore is available worldwide later this month and is more capable than StorageTek's Permabit-based LFCM 100, only available in North America. A 4TB starter IntelliStore costs around $75,000 (£42,000) with each additional terabyte costing $9,000 (£5,000) A set of additional compliance functions adds $15,000 to the cost (£8,400).

Other CAS product suppliers, as well as EMC, are Archivas, Avamar, Exagrid and Permabit. Network Appliance also has products in this category - NearStore and Snaplock.

Virtual tape library (VTL) vendors with actual disk libraries behind their libraries could move to offer CAS-based disk-tape archiving by adding appropriate software.

The obvious vendor to do this is ADIC with its PathLightVX VTL and Scalar libraries. EMC has an agreement with ADIC to resell its libraries. Combine Centera with an ADIC library and EMC too could offer a multi-level archive.

We can be certain that Sun was fully aware of StorageTek's IntelliStore product when it bought the company last week. The product gives Sun another inducement to offer its customers in attempts to keep EMC out of its accounts.

With StorageTek's entry the CAS market is now mainstream and all serious full-line storage vendors will have to offer the technology.