Startup Marries Local Storage Devices, Cloud Computing


Headquarters: Palo Alto, Calif.

Technology Sector: Storage

Key Products: Ctera CloudPlug, Ctera C200

Year Founded: 2008

Sponsored post

Number of Channel Partners: Just starting to build a channel

Ideal Channel Partner: Small business-focused solution provider

Why You Should Care: Small businesses don’t always properly manage or backup their data. Ctera’s products make it easy to put together a low-cost NAS from USB hard drives and connect to an online data repository to protect data.

The Lowdown: Startup Ctera is preparing to release a hybrid product line that helps small businesses and SOHOs not only network their data storage but also connect it to an Internet-based storage repository for data protection.

At the same time, it is offering solution providers the opportunity to build a managed storage service process, said Liran Eshel, CEO of Ctera, a privately-held company backed by Benchmark Capital that came out of stealth mode in January.

Target customers typically have more than one PC, but they are very inefficient users of backup software, server, tapes, and offsite storage, he said.

Ctera CloudPlug

That’s why Ctera is offering a hybrid that includes a local device in combination with online storage. “It hides the online complexity,” he said. “To the user, it looks like a local device. But it gives them the reliability of the cloud.”

Ctera’s two products, which Eshel calls “Cloud Attached Storage,” are slated to be released in the near future.

The first is the Ctera CloudPlug, a tiny appliance about the size of an AC adapter. The CloudPlug connects to a standard home outlet. It has a Gigabit Ethernet adapter for plugging into the customer’s network, and a USB port that lets the customer plug in an external USB hard drive. That drive instantly becomes a NAS-attached drive that is shared by all users on the network.

The second is the Ctera C200, a stand-alone appliance with room inside for two hot-swappable SATA hard drives as well as a USB port for additional external hard drives. The Ctera C200 provides RAID 0 and 1 capability as well as non-RAID storage.

Both devices feature a 1.2-GHz ARM processor and a Linux operating system.

In addition to sharing files, the devices automatically handle the backup of the data to an online data vault via Ctera’s software, which allows solution providers to help clients set up an online data vault on any public or private cloud, such as Amazon S3 or Nirvanix, Eshel said.

“We do the hosting using Amazon, or partners can provide their own storage for hosting,” he said.

The company also offers Ctera Portal, a private-label platform for providing storage as a service. Ctera Portal allows service providers to remotely manage thousands of subscribers and control their Cloud Attached Storage, including subscriber management, service provisioning, status monitoring, reporting, and more.

Three market trends combine to open an opportunity for solution providers to work with Ctera to provide a managed storage service with local storage, Eshel said.

First, customers are getting used to online backup services thanks to the widespread acceptance of services such as those offered by Mozy and Carbonite. Second, the technology for embedded NAS appliances is mature. And finally, next-generation broadband is allowing high-speed backups online. “When all three come together, that’s an opportunity for bringing a new solution to market,” he said.

Both the CloudPlug and the C200 are expected to be available for beta testing in the next couple months, with general availability expected this year, Eshel said.

Ctera is looking at a couple of pricing models. The first might have customers subscribing to a managed storage service with the device provided at no charge. Or customers might buy the appliance and have the service purchased separately.